Sera of thymus-bearing normal mice contain high levels of Interleukin 2 (II-2) inhibitor, whereas sera of athymic nu/nu mice do not. Evidence is presented that cyclophosphamide-sensitive Lyt-23+ T cells induce high II-2 inhibitor activity in the recipient nu/nu mice in the course of a graft-vs.-host reaction. The II-2 inhibitor has an approximately 50,000 mol wt. Its function is neither antigen specific nor H-2 restricted. During ontogeny, its activity parallels the development of T cell reactivity, i.e., it is absent both in the amniotic fluid and in sera of unborn mice, but increases to high levels during the early postnatal phase. The II-2 inhibitor described is viewed as an example of a T cell-dependent, in vivo regulatory mechanism able to effectively counteract the nonspecific activity of the Lyt-1+ helper T cell-derived II-2. Because the II-2 inhibitor activity is rather high in vivo, II-2 activity will exist only in close proximity to its producer cell, thereby maintaining specificity during the in vivo induction of cytotoxic T lymphocytes

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