Rejection of H-Y-bearing primary skin grafts and generation of H-Y-specific cytolytic T cells by female mice requires the participation of both CD4+ and CD8+ T lymphocytes. Studies were conducted to investigate long-term tolerance of H-Y antigen induced in female mice by transiently depleting them of CD4+ and/or CD8+ T cells and, at the same time, giving them an injection of male lymphoid cells. We confirmed that after recovery of CD4+ to normal levels, female mice that had been transiently depleted of CD4+ cells and concurrently given an injection of male spleen cells were unable to generate H-Y-specific cytolytic T cells. Tolerance was also manifest by greatly extended survival (probably permanent in most cases) of male skin grafts. Further investigations revealed that female mice transiently depleted of CD8+ cells, and concurrently given an injection of male spleen cells, were similarly tolerant of H-Y antigen later when numbers of CD8+ T cells returned to normal. Moreover, small numbers of male cells were detectable in spleen and lymph nodes of tolerant females long after they had been given an injection of male cells and depleted of either CD4+ or CD8+ T cells, whereas no male cells were detected in (nontolerant) females given male cells and control antibodies. These findings show that tolerance of the relatively weak transplantation antigen, H-Y, can be achieved simply by giving male antigen-bearing spleen cells to the host while it is transiently depleted of a type of cell it needs in order to reject those cells, thus allowing the male cells to persist in the host. Furthermore, depletion of helper cells is not obligatory to achieve tolerance. It has been hypothesized that tolerance of H-Y antigen in females given male lymphoid cells while temporarily depleted of CD4+ lymphocytes results from unresponsiveness (anergy) induced in H-Y-specific CD8+ cells that are exposed to H-Y antigen in the absence of help from CD4+ cells. Interpretations of our findings are discussed in relation to this hypothesis.

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