Delayed-type hypersensitivity (DTH) appears in mice immunized with less than an optimal immunogenic dose of sheep red blood cells (SRBC), but is blocked progressively as antibody production increases in response to larger doses of SRBC. Treatment with cyclophosphamide (CY) was shown to release T cells from this inhibitory influence of the humoral response, and cause enhancement of DTH. The magnitude of this enhancing effect on T-cell activity was markedly dependent on the time of treatment relative to the time of immunization, and on the time chosen for measuring DTH. The reasons for these pronounced effects of timing are threefold: (a) CY given before antigenic stimulation has a long-lasting effect on antibody formation, but no apparent effect on the precursors of activated T cells. (b) After antigenic stimulation, T cells also become susceptible to CY. (c) The production of a nonspecific participant (monocyte) in the DTH reaction is also suppressed by CY, though the supply of circulating monocytes is not immediately affected by the drug.
The differential effect of CY on T and B lymphocytes depends on the differing physiological states of the majority of cells that make up these two populations. The former are resting cells that are insensitive to CY until exposed to specific antigen, while the latter are drawn from a rapidly replicating precursor pool and are susceptible to CY at all times.