Thoracic duct lymphocytes (TDL) from normal rats will restore a primary antibody response to sheep erythrocytes (SRBC) in irradiated recipients and cause a graft-versus-host reaction in F1 hybrid rats; lymphocytes from rats immunized with either tetanus toxoid or dinitrophenylated bovine gamma globulin (DNP BGG) will generate specific antibody after cell transfer and challenge. The ability of TDL to mediate each of these responses is severely depressed by giving a single intravenous dose of the specific antigen shortly before cannulation of the thoracic duct, although the lymphocyte donors themselves respond normally. The injection of antigen does not decrease the output of lymphocytes in the thoracic duct and the effect is specific for the antigen injected. The findings are most readily accounted for by assuming that small subpopulations of specific lymphocytes are selected from the recirculating pool by antigen which has localized in lymphoid tissue. The observation that passive antibody abolishes selection by SRBC supports this interpretation.
The strong selection exerted by a subcutaneous injection of SRBC in Freund's complete adjuvant, which induces delayed hypersensitivity but little early antibody, suggests that a common cell type may be involved in the induction of both delayed hypersensitivity and antibody formation. The anti-DNP antibody response generated by TDL from rats immunized with DNP BGG was abolished by a selecting injection of the homologous conjugate. The response was depressed to a smaller degree by injections of either BGG or dinitrophenylated human serum albumin, suggesting that carrier-specific (T) and hapten-specific (B) lymphocytes could be separately selected from the recirculating pool.
The regional selection of recirculating lymphocytes by antigen may explain a number of phenomena in which the prior injection of antigen has been found to inhibit a subsequent immune response.