A system has been described that produces a murine syngeneic mixed lymphocyte response (MLR) comparable in magnitude to an allogeneic MLR. The responder cells in these cultures exhibit the classic immunologic characteristics of both memory and specificity. Studies using radiation-induced bone marrow chimeras of F(1) {arrow} parent type indicated that, similar to many other T cell-mediated immune responses, the response of the T lymphocytes in the syngeneic MLR was major histocompatibility complex-restricted and was determined by the environment in which the T cells matured. Using responder T cells from F(1) {arrow} parent chimeras and stimulator cells from H-2 recombinant strains, it was possible to map the genes involved in the stimulation to the K and/or I regions. In addition, blocking studies with monoclonal anti-Ia antibodies suggested that in the B10.A strain the critical molecules were products of both the I-A(k) and I-E(k) subregions.

The issue of whether the syngeneic MLR is directed solely at self I-region antigens or whether the response represents proliferation to an unknown antigen in association with self I-region determinants was also addressed. Secondary syngeneic MLR were successfully performed in normal mouse serum and with stimulator cells prepared in the absence of bovine serum albumin to rule out the possibility that xenogeneic serum antigens were involved in the stimulation. The possibility that the syngeneic MLR might represent a secondary response to environmental antigens was eliminated by using germ- free mice as a source of stimulator cells and by demonstrating that spleen cells from unimmunized, fully allogeneic chimeras (B10.A {arrow} B10) could generate a normal syngeneic MLR even though such chimeras could not be primed to respond to any foreign antigens unless supplemented in vivo with a source of antigen-presenting cells syngeneic to the B10 host. The possibility that the syngeneic MLR was a primary response to a foreign antigen was considered unlikely because by using our culture conditions we could not obtain a primary antigen response or a secondary antigen response after in vitro priming to a variety of potent foreign antigens. Finally, the possibility that the syngeneic MLR represents a response to a variety of minor histocompatibility self antigens in association with self Ia molecules was eliminated by showing that the secondary responses to H-2 compatible, non-H-2 different strain (A/J vs. B10.A and C3H, or BALB/c vs. B10.D2 and DBA/2) were comparable to the secondary responses to syngeneic stimulators. Thus, we conclude that the target antigens in the syngeneic MLR are solely determinants on self Ia molecules, although the functionally equivalent possibility of a single, nonpolymorphic, minor self antigen seen in association with self Ia molecules cannot be excluded.

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