Injecting human peripheral blood mononuclear cells into severe combined immunodeficient (SCID) mice results in long-term engraftment of human lymphocytes, of which > 98% are phenotypically mature, activated T cells. Here we have characterized the human T cells that populate such hu-PBL-SCID chimeras. We report that these human T cells do not mobilize Ca2+ after CD3 stimulation, i.e., their T cell receptor (TCR)-mediated signal transduction is deficient. Chimera-derived human T cells do not secrete lymphokines or undergo blastogenesis after CD3 stimulation, but proliferate in response to interleukin 2 (IL-2), defining the chimera derived human T cells as anergic. Anergy was seen in both the CD4+ and the CD8+ subpopulations. We established human T cell lines from chimeras. These T cells retained their anergic state for 1-2 mo in culture, after which they simultaneously regained the ability to mobilize Ca2+, secrete lymphokines, and to undergo blastogenesis following stimulation via the TCR. Once regaining proliferative responsiveness to CD3 stimulation, these CD4+ T cell lines displayed anti-SCID mouse reactivity and showed no specificity for recall antigens. All CD3-responsive CD4+ T cell clones obtained from such lines were SCID mouse specific, recognizing native major histocompatibility complex class II products on the murine cells. In contrast, chimera-derived human CD8+ cell lines and clones did not display detectable anti-mouse reactivity. The data show that the human T cell system in long term hu-PBL-SCID chimeras is nonfunctional due to both anergy and the limitation of the CD4+ repertoire to xenoreactive clones. The data suggest that long-term hu-PBL-SCID chimerism represents an atypical graft-versus-host reaction in which the human effector T cells become anergic in the murine environment.

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