Minor histocompatibility (mH) antigens appear to play a major role in bone marrow transplantation (BMT) using HLA-identical donors. Previously, we reported the isolation of major histocompatibility complex (MHC)-restricted mH antigen-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) from patients with graft-vs.-host disease or rejection after HLA-identical BMT. We have demonstrated that mH antigens can be recognized on hematopoietic progenitor cells, and residual recipient CTL specific for mH antigens expressed on donor hematopoietic progenitor cells may be responsible for graft rejection in spite of intensive conditioning regimens in HLA-identical BMT. Here, we investigated whether mH antigen-specific CTL directed against the mH antigens HA-1 to HA-5 and the male-specific antigen H-Y were capable of antigen-specific inhibition of in vitro growth of clonogenic leukemic precursor cells. We demonstrate that mH antigen-specific CTL against all mH antigens tested can lyse freshly obtained myeloid leukemic cells, that these mH antigen-specific CTL can inhibit their clonogenic leukemic growth in vitro, and that this recognition is MHC restricted. We illustrate that leukemic (precursor) cells can escape elimination by mH antigen-specific CTL by impaired expression of the relevant MHC restriction molecule. We suggest that mH antigen-specific MHC-restricted CTL may be involved in vivo in the graft-vs.-leukemia reactivity after BMT.

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