We have tested the ability of several types of trinitrophenyl (TNP)-labeled Ia+ cells to induce contact hypersensitivity (CS) after intravenous injection. Most labeled cell types (spleen cells, splenic macrophages, various types of peritoneal-exudate cells) not only fail to induce CS after this type of inoculation but, rather, activate T suppressor cells leading to specific immunological tolerance. Occasionally, some of these immunizing cells managed to bypass the T suppressor system and induced CS. In those cases the response was short-lived and could be blocked by concomitant injection of trinitrobenzelsulphonic acid (TNBS), a potent inducer of T suppressor cells. In sharp contrast to these results, TNP-labeled splenic dendritic cells and TNP-labeled peritoneal-exudate cells induced by complete Freund's adjuvant had the following distinctive features: (a) They were always able to sensitize when injected intravenously, and the degree of sensitization they produced was roughly equivalent to that achieved by cutaneous application of picryl chloride, the chemically reactive form of TNP. (b) The response they elicited was long lived (i.e., lasted for greater than 3 wk). (c) Their sensitizing capacity could not be blocked by the concomitant injection of TNBS. (d) They elicited a response that could be adoptively transferred to untreated, normal recipients. These results indicate that the type of cell that first presents antigen to the immune system plays an important, even essential, role in determining the strength and duration of the subsequent immune response. In particular, the results suggest that some special antigen-presenting cells can induce a response that is relatively resistant to host suppressor mechanisms. Evidence that they do so by activating contrasuppressor cells is discussed.

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