An in vitro model was developed to study both primary and secondary proliferative responses of human lymphocytes to hapten-conjugated peripheral blood mononuclear cells. Coculture of human lymphocytes with autologous trinitrophenyl (TNP)-conjugated stimulator cells resulted in primary proliferative responses. Subjects segregated into high and low primary responders with mean stimulation indices of 11 and 2.1, respectively. Restimulation of primed cells from high responder subjects 3 wk after initial sensitization generated secondary proliferative responses. To investigate the antigenic requirements for secondary stimulation, autologous TNP-conjugate primed responders were restimulated with both autologous and allogeneic TNP-conjugated stimulators. In all experiments restimulation with autologous conjugated cells yielded substantially greater proliferative responses than with allogeneic conjugates. Experiments were then performed to ascertain whether HLA determinant homology between primed responder and stimulator cells influenced the level of secondary responsiveness. Homology for HLA-A and B locus serologic determinants was not associated with enhanced responsiveness. In contrast, D region determinant homology, detected by B-cell antigen typing, showed a highly significant positive correlation with the magnitude of secondary responses. The data thus strongly suggest that for secondary proliferative responses to TNP, human T cells recognize hapten in association with HLA-D region determinants.

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