A population of lymphoid cells from several animal species, including man, was identified through a membrane receptor which binds sheep red blood cells treated with antibody and complement. When cells from different lymphoid organs were incubated with EAC at 37°C, only part of the lymphocytes (named CRL) bound EAC and formed rosettes, and this interaction was shown to be C3-dependent.
Mouse lymphoid cells could be specifically depleted of CRL by allowing them first to interact with EAC and then submitting the mixture to ultracentrifugation in a gradient of BSA. After ultracentrifugation, a population of cells containing 95% or more of non-CRL were recovered from the upper layers of the gradient.
In addition to their different abilities to bind EAC, CRL and non-CRL from mouse lymphoid organs could be distinguished by the following properties: (a) CRL adhered preferentially to nylon wool at 37°C in the presence of mouse serum. (b) After differential flotation in a gradient of BSA, a significantly higher proportion of CRL were recovered from the upper layers of the gradient. (c) The population of CRL contained most of the lymphocytes bearing immunoglobulin determinants on their membranes. (d) The distribution of CRL was quite different among lymphocytes obtained from various lymphoid organs, and they were never found in the thymus. (e) The membrane receptor for EAC was not detected in plaque-forming cells of mice which had been previously immunized with burro red cells.
CRL and non-CRL could not be distinguished by their life span, as they were found in similar proportions among long-lived and short-lived lymphocytes from mouse peripheral lymph nodes.
The function of this receptor on the membrane of certain lymphoid cells may be related to (a) the trapping and localization of antigen in lymphoid organs or (b) the localization of lymphoid cells in inflammatory sites.