Antigen-specific cytotoxic T cells can be generated by primary in vitro stimulation of spleen cells from C57BL/6 mice with appropriate peptide fragments. This response can be elicited without prior in vivo immunization. Chicken OVA fragmented with either cyanogen bromide (CN OVA) or trypsin (T OVA) was used as a source of mixed peptides. A synthetic peptide, NP365-380, representing the sequence 365-380 from influenza virus A/PR/8 nucleoprotein, was also used, since this contains the main determinants recognized by CTL generated from H-2b mice infected with A/PR/8 virus. The primary in vitro cytotoxic T cell response was peptide specific, since targets were lysed only in the presence of appropriate peptide antigens. Native OVA could not elicit primary effectors in vitro nor could it sensitize targets for lysis by OVA digest-specific CTL. A synthetic peptide corresponding to residues 111-122 within the OVA sequence could sensitize targets for lysis by effectors induced against T OVA. Effectors generated by in vitro stimulation were CD8+, CD4-, and H-2Db-restricted for NP365-380 and T OVA recognition. CN OVA-specific effectors were also CD8+, CD4-, but surprisingly, were able to lyse a range of H-2-different targets in an antigen-specific manner. These effectors failed to lyse a tumor line that does not express class I MHC molecules. This broad MHC restriction pattern was also apparent at the clonal level. In all cases, the antipeptide CTL generated by primary in vitro stimulation were inefficient in lysing target cells expressing endogenous forms of antigens, such as influenza virus-infected cells or cells transfected with the OVA cDNA. However, cytotoxic T cell lines generated in vitro against the NP365-380 peptide did contain a minor population of virus-reactive cells that could be selectively expanded by stimulation with A/PR/8-infected spleen cells. These results are discussed in terms of class I-restricted T cell stimulation in the absence of antigen processing by high surface densities of peptide/MHC complexes.

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