Concanavalin A, a nonspecific polyclonal activator of T lymphocytes, activates Lyl and Ly23 subclasses to the same degree. After activation, the Ly23 subclass, but not the Lyl subclass, has the following properties: (a) Suppression of the antibody response to sheep erythrocytes (SRBC) in vitro. (b) Production of a soluble factor that suppresses the anti-SRBC response in vitro. (c) Suppression of the generation of cell-mediated cytotoxicity to H-2 target cells in vitro. Con A-activated cells of the Lyl subclass, but not the Ly23 subclass, express helper function in the anti-SRBC response in vitro. Because the intact Con A-stimulated T-cell population contains both cell types, these cells do not exert detectable helper effects in an anti-SRBC system in vitro, because the helper effect of Lyl cells is masked by the suppressor effect of the Ly23 cells. Each function is revealed by eliminating one or the other population with the relevant Ly antiserum. The resting T-cell population, before activation by Con A, also contains already programmed Lyl and Ly23 cells with similar helper and suppressor potentials, respectively. This is revealed by experiments with Ly subclasses which have been separated from the resting T-cell population and then stimulated by Con A. Thus helper and suppressor functions, as expressed in these systems, are manifestations of separate T-cell-differentiative pathways and do not depend upon stimulation of the cells by antigen.

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