The relative functional maturity of neonatal mouse spleen T- and B-cell populations was assessed by comparing the ability to respond to the thymic-independent antigen, DNP-Ficoll, or thymic-dependent SRBC by producing antibody in vitro. Although mouse spleen cells responded to DNP-Ficoll at an earlier age than they responded to SRBC or TNP-SRBC, the reason for the lag in the T-dependent response was confounded by the finding of high numbers of suppressor T lymphocytes in the neonatal spleen. Thus, small numbers of neonatal spleen T cells or thymocytes significantly decreased the in vitro antibody response of adult spleen cells. Although B lymphocytes appear to be functionally mature soon after birth, their acitivity may be modulated by an excess of suppressor T cells; e.g., the reconstitution of helper cell function in the neonatal spleen required anti-theta treatment before addition of adult helper cells. Suppressive activity attributable to T cells seems to play a dominant role in determining the ability of the neonatal animal to react positively or negatively to antigenic stimulation.

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