The present report has evaluated the differentiation compartment in which T cells are tolerized to non-major histocompatibility complex (MHC)-encoded minor lymphocyte-stimulating locus (MLS) alloantigens. It was observed that T cell precursors are not tolerized prethymically to MLS alloantigens but are tolerized intrathymically and postthymically to MLS alloantigens. The failure of prethymic T cells to be tolerized indicates either that T cell precursors are unable to be tolerized to MLS alloantigens or that cells in the prethymic compartment are unable to induce MLS-specific tolerance. In either case, these results demonstrate that the thymus is the initial site in which T cell tolerance to MLS alloantigen is induced. The present results also demonstrate a striking disparity in the reactivity of thymocytes to MHC and MLS alloantigens expressed in the extrathymic host through which their precursors had migrated. In the experimental mice constructed for these studies, intrathymic T cells were tolerant to the MHC alloantigens but were reactive to the MLS alloantigens expressed by the extrathymic host. This observation is consistent with the concept that T cell precursors may be tolerized to MHC alloantigens at an earlier point in their differentiation than they are tolerized to non-MHC-encoded MLS alloantigens.

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