The major histocompatibility complex codes for determinants which are recognized by and serve as targets for cytolytic T lymphocytes (CTL) (1). Antigens coded for by the K and D loci of the H-2 complex can activate xenogeneic or allogeneic CTL (2,3). In addition, the H-2K or H-2D gene products function as those molecules against which syngeneic CTL responses specific for chemical, viral, and minor H antigens are directed (4-8).
It has recently been shown that Ia determinants can also serve as target antigens for distinct but weaker CTL responses (9-13). Those clones which recognize Ia antigens see them independently of K- or D- coded antigens as shown in genetic studies and by antisera-blocking experiments (12,13). We have proposed that the existence of clones of CTL specific for I-region-coded determinants is not fortuitous; rather these clones specifically recognize Ia determinants and may have an immunoregulatory role. These CTL may affect those immune functions which are at least partially dependent on or controlled by I-region-coded molecules.
Two predictions can be made and tested concerning the role of Ia determinants in cytolytic systems and the role, if any, of I-region- specific CTL in regulating the immune response: (a) that if as we and others have shown, certain Ia specificities can serve as a third series of major histocompatibility antigens, then Ia antigens should be susceptible to the same types of antigenic modifications as H-2K- or H-2D-coded structures and thus serve as targets for CTL directed against modified-self in selected systems; and (b) that allogeneically induced I-region-specific CTL should demonstrate cross-reactivity with targets bearing modified syngeneic I-region-coded determinants. Data will be present which demonstrates that trinitrophenyl (TNP)-modified syngeneic I-region determinants can serve as targets for CTL induced by allogeneic Ia antigens.