Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 7589127
Eur. J. Immunol. 1995 Sep;25(9):2563-71
Athymic mice grafted at birth with allogeneic thymic epithelium (TE) display life-long tolerance to tissue grafts of the TE donor strain, in spite of harboring peripheral T cells capable of rejecting those grafts. Tolerance is maintained in these chimeras by TE-specific regulatory CD4 T cells. We presently address the quantification and the mechanisms of this dominant tolerance process. C57BL/6 mice containing variable but defined numbers of peripheral, resident T cells received cell transfers of graded numbers of peripheral T cells from B6(BALB E10) chimeras (C57BL/6 nude mice grafted with TE from 10-day-old BALB/c embryos), resulting in a series of animals containing a wide range of donor (tolerant) versus host (non-tolerant) T cell chimerism. Increasing the relative representation of donor T cells results in a progressive delay in the rejection of BALB/c skin grafts, life-long tolerance being achieved at a ratio of tolerant and non-tolerant T cell populations of 1. In recipients displaying full tolerance, graft-reactive non-tolerant T cells were not deleted, anergized or committed to noninflammatory functions. Thus, sorted host T cells from tolerant recipients readily rejected BALB/c skin grafts upon transfer to immunodeficient animals. Finally, measurements of “helper” and inflammatory activities, as well as interleukin-4 and interferon-gamma production, failed to discriminate between T cell populations from tolerant and non-tolerant animals after specific in vitro stimulation. We conclude that: (a) TE-selected regulatory T cells can suppress, in a quantitative manner, in vivo T cell responses against major and minor histocompatibility antigens expressed by the TE and, (b) this suppressive activity neither inactivates mature non-tolerant T cells, nor does it seem to drive their differentiation along noninflammatory pathways.