Past work has shown that a subset of effector T cells with unique characteristics could abrogate hapten- or antigen-induced tolerance, and the reconstitution of this immune response has been termed contrasuppression. We have studied contrasuppression in a model of oral tolerance (OT) in which adoptively transferred antigen-specific T contrasuppressor (Tcs) cells reverse OT and result in antibody responses to the eliciting antigen. In the present study, we show that murine intraepithelial lymphocytes (IELs) from mice orally immunized with sheep red blood cells (SRBC) contain T cells that exhibit Tcs cell activity. This effect was mediated by CD3+ gamma/delta T cell receptor-positive (TCR+), but not alpha/beta TCR+ T cells, and gamma/delta TCR+ Tcs cells were associated with both the CD4-,CD8+ and CD4-,CD8- (double-negative) IEL fractions. The CD4-,CD8+ gamma/delta TCR+ IELs were further separated into Vicia villosa-adherent and -nonadherent fractions. Adoptive transfer of V. villosa-adherent gamma/delta TCR+ T cells to mice with OT to SRBC resulted in splenic IgA, IgM, and IgG subclass anti-SRBC responses, while V. villosa-nonadherent gamma/delta TCR+ T cells were without activity. The gamma/delta TCR+ IELs did not support in vitro antibody responses in B cell cultures, while alpha/beta TCR+ IELs were effective T helper cells. Further, cytokine production by the gamma/delta TCR+ IELs was examined, and the gamma/delta TCR+ V. villosa-adherent fraction, which possessed contrasuppressor function, contained low levels of IL-5 mRNA and small numbers of IL-5-producing cells when compared with alpha/beta TCR+ IELs and V. villosa-nonadherent gamma/delta TCR+ IELs. Our results now show that mouse IELs contain two distinct types of T cells that function in the immune response, e.g., alpha/beta TCR+ T cells that produce IL-5 and function as helper cells, and gamma/delta TCR+ T cells that restore antibody responses in mice that had been orally tolerized with antigen.

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