We present evidence that most T cells proliferating in response to autologous sheep erythrocyte (SRBC)-separated non-T cells (NT) cells are not specific for autoantigens but for antigens derived from xenogeneic sources. The conclusion was based on the following three observations. First, we found that NT cells isolated in the absence of xenoproteins by means of density gradient centrifugation on Percoll only weakly stimulated autologous T cells. Because this weak proliferation could not be expanded in restimulation experiments, its significance as an immune recognitive event remains questionable. NT cells isolated by the above method in the absence of xenogeneic determinants readily acquired stimulatory capacity after brief exposure to either SRBC or fetal calf serum. Second, restimulation of T memory cells generated in 1 degree autologous mixed lymphocyte reaction (AMLR) against SRBC-separated autologous NT cells was exclusively seen when NT cells exposed to or separated with xenoproteins were used for restimulation. Third, T memory cells generated against SRBC-separated autologous NT cells were specifically restimulated by autologous Percoll-separated NT cells that had been pulsed with a variety of xenogeneic mammalian sera. These xenogeneic determinants were preferentially recognized in context with autologous HLA-DR+ cells. From these findings and from our previous results that indicated an absolute requirement of HLA-DR+-adherent NT cells (8), we conclude that human AMLR primarily does not represent an autoantigen but a xenoantigen response that is genetically restricted by the HLA-DR type of the antigen-presenting cell.

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