We have previously reported on the induction, in mice, of a systemic (splenic) immune response with IgA as the dominant antibody, as a result of a short (4 day) intragastric immunization course with foreign erythrocytes. This response was followed by a prolonged period of hyporesponsiveness to similarly administered antigen. Here it is shown that this hyporesponsiveness is also manifested towards antigen given intraperitoneally, and that one is therefore dealing with tolerance, not with failure to absorb antigen from the gut. In contrast, mice primed parenterally and then challenged intragastrically behaved as if never having any previous contact with the antigen, i.e., with a primary-type splenic response of predominant IgA character. This agrees with our former conclusion that splenic responses to enterically absorbed antigen reflect colonization of the spleen by cells sensitized locally in the gut wall, a site not readily primed by the parenteral route. Serum from intragastrically immunized mice contained a very active tolerogen. In vivo, it was capable of conferring tolerance to nonimmune recipient mice. In vitro, it paralyzed the activity of antibody-producing cells. Inhibitory sera has weak antibody activity, restricted to the IgA class, and contained immune complexes reacting with rheumatoid factor but not with C1q. Elimination of these complexes by means by insolubilized rheumatoid factor abolished the tolerogenic effect. In conclusion, the enterically induced tolerogen seems to consist of immune complexes with IgA as the antibody.

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