Specific cytotoxic thymus-derived (T) lymphocytes were detected in the cervical lymph nodes and spleen during influenza infection of mice. The cytotoxic T cells can distinguish target cells infected with different influenza A subtypes. Infection with parent viruses and their recombinant progeny possessing the hemagglutinin of one parent and the neuraminidase of the other demonstrated that significant cytotoxicity occurred only when the hemagglutinin of the immunizing viruses was the same as that of the virus used to infect the target cell. In addition to this specific cytotoxic response to the major surface antigen, a cross-reactive response could be detected when the relatively nonpermissive L cell was used as the target cell. These results indicate there is a specific cytotoxic T-cell response to the surface hemagglutinin, and a cross-reactive cytotoxic response, not directed to the hemagglutinin, during influenza infection. The cytotoxic T-cell response specific for the hemagglutinin antigen may play an important role in in vivo immunity to influenza.

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