Mouse amniotic fluid was shown to contain a noncytotoxic inhibitor of primary gammaM and secondary gammaM, gammaG subclass splenic plaque forming cells in vitro to SRBC. The suppressive effect was not abolished by exhaustive dialysis or by absorption of mouse amniotic fluid (MAF) with SRBC. Polyacrylamide gel analysis showed that dialyzed MAF was composed of three major protein components, transferrin, albumin, and alpha-fetoprotein (AFP). The selective removal of each of these patients from MAF by affinity chromatography suggested that AFP was the immunosuppressive substance in MAF. This conclusion was verified by the demonstration that pure AFP suppressed in vitro antibody synthesis in microgram quantities whereas equivalent amounts of normal mouse serum, transferrin, or albumin did not. Dose-response studies showed that the effect of AFP in the isolated form was equivalent to the suppressive effect of comparable amounts of AFP in MAF. gammaA and gammaG plaque-forming cell (PFC) responses were suppressed by a significantly lower concentration of AFP than was the gammaM PFC response. The degree of suppression watration of AFP than was the gammaM PFC response. The degree of suppression was dependent on the time at which AFP was added to the cultures; MAF added to antigen-stimulated cultures up to 24 h after initiation of cultures was immunosuppressive whereas similar additions of MAF at 48 h after initiation or later did not suppress. The duration of exposure of spleen cells to MAF in cultures without antigen necessary to achieve suppression of a subsequent primary immune response was determine-d to be approximately 8 h. The results suggest that AFP may have an immunoregulatry function. This has potentially important implications in the maternal-fetal relationship, the immune capabilities of the fetus and newborn, and in certain malignant and nonmalignant diseases in which AFP is elevated.

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