This study characterizes the T helper (Th) cells that initiate primary cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) responses against allogeneic and trinitrophenyl (TNP)-modified self class I major histocompatibility (MHC) determinants. We show that two distinct Th cell subsets participate in allospecific CTL responses: (a) an L3T4+,Lyt-2- class II-restricted Th cell population, and (b) an L3T4-,Lyt-2+ class I-restricted Th cell population. Both of these T cell subpopulations were shown to function in allospecific CTL responses as helper cells by their ability to show synergy with allospecific CTL precursors. Thus, primary class I allospecific CTL responses represent an immune response involving not only L3T4+ Th cells, but Lyt-2+ Th cells as well. One of the necessary functions performed by both L3T4+ and Lyt-2+ Th cell populations in allospecific CTL responses was found to be the secretion of interleukin 2. Finally, despite the many similarities between anti-allo- and anti-TNP-CTL responses, anti-TNP-CTL responses were found to be mediated by only L3T4+ Th cells, not by Lyt-2+ Th cells. Consequently, Lyt-2+ Th cells appear to be a helper cell population that is primarily involved in MHC-specific immune responses.

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