This paper deals with the behavior of adult mouse bone marrow cells placed in tissue culture with or without antigen, and subsequently assessed for immune competence after adoptive transfer into lethally X-irradiated, syngeneic hosts. Attention was focussed on B lymphocytes through using hapten human gamma globulin (HGG) preparations as putative tolerogens in tissue culture, the T-cell-independent antigens DNP-POL and NIP-POL as challenge injections in adoptive hosts, and numbers of hapten-specific PFC in host spleens for the quantitation of immune competence. It was found that the capacity of bone marrow cells to mount an adoptive immune response rose by a factor of about fivefold over 3 days in tissue culture. This rise was completely abolished by the presence in the culture of hapten-HGG conjugates with about one mole of hapten per carrier molecule. The prevention of the emergence of immune competence amongst maturing B cells was termed clonal abortion tolerogenesis. Dose-response studies showed the lowest effective antigen concentration to be between 2.5 times 10- minus 10 and 2.5 times 10- minus 9 M, and a standard concentration of 2.5 times 10- minus 8 M was chosen as producing near maximal effects. The tolerance was antigen-specific and time-dependent, being maximal only when antigen was present continuously as the cultured cells was maturing. It did not depend on the presence of T lymphocytes in marrow, and was not of an "infectious" type. In contrast to tolerogenesis of mature B lymphocytes by high antigen concentrations, it could not be abolished by lipopolysaccharide. We speculate that clonal abortion may be a tolerance mechanism of great physiological significance for self-recognition, and discuss the results in the framework of other recent tolerance models, including those involving receptor blockade and suppressor T cells.

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