Draining lymph node cells (LNC) from mice immunized with hen egg white lysozyme (HEL) display at their surface antigen-MHC complexes able to stimulate, in the absence of any further antigen addition, HEL peptide-specific, class II-restricted T cell hybridomas. Chloroquine addition to these LNC cultures fails to inhibit antigen presentation, indicating that antigenic complexes of class II molecules and HEL peptides are formed in vivo. MHC class II restriction of antigen presentation by LNC from HEL-primed mice was verified by the use of anti-class II monoclonal antibodies. Coinjection of HEL and the I-Ak-binding peptide HEL 112-129 in mice of H-2k haplotype inhibits the ability of LNC to stimulate I-Ak-restricted, HEL 46-61-specific T cell hybridomas. Similar results are obtained in mice coinjected with the HEL peptides 46-61 and 112-129. Inhibition of T hybridoma activation can also be observed using as antigen-presenting cells irradiated, T cell-depleted LNC from mice coinjected with HEL 46-61 and HEL 112-129, ruling out the possible role of either specific or nonspecific suppressor T cells. Inhibition of T cell proliferation is associated with MHC-specific inhibition of antigen presentation and with occupancy by the competitor of class II binding sites, as measured by activation of peptide-specific T cell hybridomas. These results demonstrate that administration of MHC class II binding peptide competitors selectively inhibits antigen presentation to class II-restricted T cells, indicating competitive blockade of class II molecules in vivo.

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