Gene products coded for by the major hisocompatibility complex (MHC) can serve as target antigens for cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) (1). A variety of test systems are available which have yielded information consistently reinforcing the importance of this complex of genes in the generation and effector phases of the cytotoxic immune response. Originally, it was shown that allogeneically-induced CTL had specificity primarily for the products of the K and D loci of the mouse H-2 complex (2). More recently this has also been found to be the case for xenogeneic immunizations (3,4). Additional examples of T cell-mediated lysis have been reported involving viral-infected or chemically- modified syngeneic stimulating and target cells in which homology at H-2K or H-2D was required between the responding and target cells for appreciable lysis to occur (5-7). Moreover, CTL specific for minor histocompatability antigens are able to lyse only target cells bearing these membrane antigens and sharing a common H-2K or H2-D gene product with the effector (8,9).
Two hypotheses have been proposed to explain the requirement for H-2 identity between effector and targets in these systems. CTL may recognize new antigenic determinants created by the interaction of the modifier with syngeneic K and D gene products. Alternately, a dual recognition system my exist, requiring an antigen-specific receptor as well as a second receptor with specificity for homologous H-2K or H-2D determinants (5). Neither model can be excluded at this time.
The I region also contains genes coding for histocompatibility loci since animals differing at the I-A or I-C regions of the H-2 complex reject skin grafts (10-12), though less rapidly than mice differing at the H-2K or H-2D regions, Also CTL can be generated to I region determinants but less efficiently than CTL specific for H-2K or H-2D gene products (12-14). The question can therefore be raised, whether the I region minor histocompatibility loci function independently from the H-2K or H-2D loci or whether I region-specific cytolysis requires the participation of H-2K or H-2D gene products of the target cell.
This communication illustrates the generation of CTL showing specificity for I region determinants in primary mixed lymphocyte cultures. Further, we demonstrate by genetic analysis and byt eh use of speficit alloantisera that CTL directed to Ia determinants (a) do not see these antigens as modifications of H-2K or H-2D gene products but as independent gene products coded for by the I region, and (b) they do not require interaction with target cells bearing the same H-2K or H-2D gene product as the effect CTL.