Congenitally athymic rats injected with CD45RBhigh CD4+ T cells from congenic euthymic donors developed a severe wasting disease with inflammatory infiltrates in liver, lung, stomach, thyroid, and pancreas. In contrast, recipients of CD45RBlow CD4+ T cells remained well and continued to gain weight. Animals given unfractionated CD4+ T cells, i.e., a mixture of approximately two-thirds CD45RBhigh and one-third CD45RBlow, were protected from the wasting disease, and the incidence of organ-specific inflammation was much reduced compared with that found in recipients of CD45RBhigh cells alone. The data suggest that this latter subset of CD4+ T cells has autoaggressive potential that is inhibited in normal animals by cells of the CD45RBlow CD4+ phenotype. The possible consequences of a breakdown in this immunoregulatory mechanism are briefly discussed.

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