Antibodies raised against many structurally related antigens have been shown to cross-react extensively. Manifestations of T-cell immunity, on the other hand, appear to be more restricted in their ability to be elicited by cross-reacting antigens, although examples have been reported. This paper explores the nature of the cross-reactions at the T-cell level among the branched-chain copolymers (T,G)-A--L, (phi,G)-A--L, (H,G)-A--L, and G-A--L, as well as a related linear terpolymer, GAT, in a variety of mouse strains using the peritoneal exudate T-lymphocyte-enriched cells (PETLES) proliferation assay. (T,G)-A--L, (phi,G)-A--L, and GAT could cross-stimulate cells immune to the other two antigens, whereas (H,G)-A--L, (T,G)-Pro--L, and G-A--L showed no cross-stimulations. The extent of the cross-reactions varied with the mouse strain and was shown to be under the control of immune response genes. It was necessary for the strain to be able to respond to both the immunogen and the cross-reacting antigen, when used as an immunogen, in order for cross-stimulation to occur; however, this was not always sufficient. Several examples of unequal or one-way cross-reactions were found. In addition, the immune responses to (H,G)-A--L and (phi,G)-A--L showed no cross-reactions with the other antigen even though their Ir genes were both mapped to the K region or I-A subregion. The problem of accounting for such fine specificity of T-cell recognition in lieu of the genetic evidence demonstrating only Ir gene control of the response is discussed.

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