This study examined the capacity of BALB/c mice that had been depleted of T cell subpopulations to generate a protective immune response to Leishmania major. Thymectomized mice were depleted of either L3T4+ (CD4+) T lymphocytes, Ly2+ (CD8+) T lymphocytes, or both, by treatment with appropriate mAbs. It was found that susceptible mice were rendered resistant to Leishmania by an intravenous infusion of anti-L3T4 mAb. These mice generated an immune response that destroyed the parasite in the primary lesion and in visceral metastatic foci. CD4+ cell-depleted mice also acquired a capacity to mount a sustained delayed-type hypersensitivity (DTH) response to parasite antigens, indicating that DTH, per se, is not a disease-promoting mechanism in the susceptible murine host as has been suggested. Depleting BALB/c mice of CD8+, as well as CD4+ T cells, left them highly susceptible to Leishmania infection, thereby indicating that CD8+ lymphocytes are key protective cells. Our results can be interpreted as showing that the susceptibility of BALB/c mice is due to the generation of CD4+ cells that suppress either the generation or expression of CD8+ T cell-mediated antiLeishmania immunity.

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