The late B-cell proliferative phase of the in vitro antibody response by rabbit spleen cells is highly susceptible to suppression by activated T cells. The in vitro antisheep erythrocyte plaque-forming cell (PFC) response by spleen cells from normal or primed rabbits can be suppressed by adding concanavalin A (Con A), Con A-prestimulated peripheral blood or spleen lymphocytes, or supernates from Con A-prestimulated peripheral blood lymphocytes. The suppression is not mediated by a direct interaction of Con A with responding cells as shown by the effectiveness of prestimulated cells. Primed spleen cultures remain sensitive to Con A suppression as late as 72 h after initiation, and the addition of Con A after 24-72 h rapidly stops the increase in the number of PFC. T cells are required for Con A addition to be effective but the suppression can be induced at a time when T-helper cells are no longer necessary. Further, the suppressive effect of Con A addition is abrogated by specific antisera to rabbit T cells. We propose that Con A activates suppressor T cells which then exert their effects on proliferating PFC or their immediate precursor B cells. The early inductive or recruitment phase of the response is probably not blocked by suppressor cells. Also, there is an apparent relationship between the number of proliferating B cells and the number of suppressor cells required. Finally, the difficulties in inducing a stimulatory effect by Con A and the prolonged period that Con A addition is suppressive suggests that the rabbit has relatively more and/or longer-lived suppressor cells than the mouse and may be a particularly useful species for studying suppressive phenomena and their mechanisms.

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