Mls determinants share with MHC products the unique property of stimulating T cells at extraordinarily high precursor frequencies. The Mls system was originally described as a single locus on chromosome 1, with four alleles, Mlsa, Mlsb, Mlsc, and Mlsd, that encode polymorphic cell surface structures. However, the fundamental issues of polymorphism and allelism in the Mls system remain controversial. To clarify these questions, a formal segregation analysis of the genes encoding Mlsa and Mlsc determinants was carried out by testing the capacity of spleen cells from progeny of (Mlsa X Mlsc)F1 X Mlsb breedings to stimulate responses by unprimed T cells and by Mlsa- and Mlsc-specific cloned T cells. The results of this analysis indicated that the gene encoding Mlsa determinants is neither allelic to nor linked to the gene encoding Mlsc determinants. Together with previous findings, these results also suggest that another strongly stimulatory type, Mlsd, in fact results from the independent expression of unlinked Mlsa and Mlsc gene products. Based on these observations, it is concluded that, contrary to conventional concepts, the stimulatory phenotypes designated as Mlsa, Mlsc, and Mlsd can be accounted for by the independent expression of the products of at least two unlinked gene loci.

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