Murine antibody responses to insulins are controlled by MHC-linked Ir genes. Although mice of the H-2b haplotype do not make antibody in response to pork insulin, we demonstrate in this communication that immunization with pork insulin stimulates radioresistant, Lyt-1+2- helper T cells that are capable of stimulating secondary antibody responses to pork insulin in vitro, but that this activity is masked by radiosensitive, Lyt-1-2+, I-J+ suppressor T cells. The suppressor T cells, present after immunization with pork insulin but not beef insulin, suppress the secondary response to pork but not beef insulin. The amino acid sequences of pork and beef insulins differ only at the A-chain loop; thus, pork insulin-specific suppressor T cells appear to recognize the A-chain loop determinant of pork insulin. The amino acid sequences of mouse and pork insulin are identical in the A-chain loop, which suggests that these suppressor T cells may be self-reactive. If this interpretation is correct, these suppressor T cells could be involved in the maintenance of self-tolerance to insulin. Nevertheless, these data clearly demonstrate that genetically determined nonresponsiveness in H-2b mice is conferred by activation of dominant, insulin-specific suppressor T cells (Ts), rather than by a defect in the stimulation of insulin-specific helper T cells (Th).

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