Tolerance of CD8+ cells was examined in parent-->F1 bone marrow chimeras (BMC) prepared with supralethal irradiation; host class I expression in the chimeras was limited to non-BM-derived cells. In terms of helper-independent proliferative responses in vitro and induction of graft-vs.-host disease on adoptive transfer, CD8+ cells from long-term chimeras showed profound tolerance to host antigens irrespective of whether the cells were prepared from the thymus or from spleen or lymph nodes. By limiting dilution analysis, cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) precursors specific for host antigens were rare in the extrathymic lymphoid tissues. In the thymus, by contrast, host-specific CTL precursors were only slightly less frequent than in normal parental strain mice. These host-specific CD8+ cells survived when BMC thymocytes were transferred intravenously to a neutral environment, i.e., to donor strain mice. When transferred to further BMC hosts, however, most of the host-reactive cells disappeared. Collectively, the data suggest that tolerance of CD8+ cells in BMC hosts occurs in both the intrathymic and extrathymic environments. In the thymus, contact with host antigens on thymic epithelial cells deletes CD8+ cells controlling helper-independent proliferative responses and in vivo effector functions but spares typical helper-dependent CTL precursors. After export from the thymus, most of the CTL precursors are eliminated after contacting host antigens on stromal cells in the extrathymic environment.

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