Because of the central role of IL-2 in clonal expansion of T cells, we have postulated that lymphocyte subpopulations with opposing regulatory functions might be independently regulated by differential requirements for expression of cell-surface IL-2-R. Purified CD4+ and CD8+ cells proliferated in an IL-2-dependent manner to crosslinked anti-T cell receptor antibodies (anti-CD3-Seph). Similarly, both CD4+ and CD8+ cells became IL-2 responsive after incubation in T suppressor cell growth factor (TsGF), a newly described approximately 8,000 Mr product of activated CD4+ cells. In support of our hypothesis, however, we observed that subpopulations of CD4+ and CD8+ cells, possessing distinct cell-surface antigens, showed differential responses to these stimuli. Those cells of suppressor-inducer or suppressor-effector phenotype failed to proliferate when cultured in anti-CD3-Seph plus IL-2, but did proliferate in an IL-2-dependent manner to TsGF. Furthermore, the suppressor-effector population was unresponsive to TsGF plus IL-2 when cocultured in anti-CD3-Seph, suggesting that functionally induced Ts may be refractory to growth stimuli. Conversely, cells with helper-inducer or cytolytic phenotype proliferated when incubated in anti-CD3-Seph and IL-2, while remaining essentially unresponsive to TsGF and IL-2. The results could not be explained by differences in the level of CD3 expression by the T cell subsets. Thus, cells within the helper and suppressor lineages appear to have distinct and reciprocal patterns for the induction of IL-2 responsiveness.

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