Three outcomes pertinent to contact sensitivity (CS) follow immunization with various forms of trinitrophenylated (TNP) substrates: (a) specific immunological unresponsiveness for CS is induced when immunization favors activation of splenic suppressor cells. This state is achieved by intravenous injection of trinitrophenyl-conjugated to various types of cells, such as peritoneal exudate cells (PEC). (b) A short-lived or evanescent form of CS is induced when immunization reduces activation of the suppressor circuit. This can be achieved by subcutaneous immunization with trinitrophenyl conjugated to syngeneic PEC, by pretreatment with cyclophosphamide to diminish suppression before intravenous immunization, or by altering the mode of antigen presentation by using TNP-substrate that has undergone phagocytosis. (c) A long-lived form of CS is induced when trinitrophenyl is presented to the immune system on skin cells either by contact skin painting with reactive trinitrophenyl, or by subcutaneous, or even intravenous injection of trinitrophenyl-conjugated epidermal cells. In fact, trinitrophenyl-conjugated epidermal cells induced CS even when the suppressor circuit was activated by intravenous coadministration of TNP-PEC. This implies that antigen presentation on epidermal cells induces sensitized cells that are relatively resistant to suppression. The cell type(s) in the skin that are primarily responsible for this potent form of antigen presentation are most likely Langerhans cells, because they can be concentrated by virtue of their Fc receptors and they are Ia positive. Thus, both the anatomical site where antigen is first encountered by the immune apparatus, as well as the nature of the cells which present the antigen, determine whether a CS response will ensue, as well as whether it will be evanescent or long-lasting.

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