We have previously shown that old mice produce more hapten-augmentable plaque-forming cells (PFC) than do young animals, suggesting a greater auto-antiidiotype antibody (auto anti-Id) component in their immune response. In the present studies this is confirmed serologically. The marked auto-anti-Id response of aged mice can be transferred to lethally irradiated young recipients with spleen but not bone marrow cells from old donors, suggesting that it is an intrinsic property of their peripheral B cell population and that the distribution of Id arising from the bone marrow of old and young mice is similar. In contrast with young mice the auto-anti-Id response of old animals is relatively T cell-independent and old donors do not show an increase in their ability to transfer an auto-anti-Id response after priming with TNP-F. These observations suggest that old mice behave as if already primed for auto-anti-Id production. Irradiated mice reconstituted with bone marrow cells from either young or old donors together with splenic T cells from old donors generate a relatively large auto-anti-Id response, whereas mice reconstituted with bone marrow from either young or old donors together with splenic T cells from young donors produce few hapten-augmentable PFC. It is suggested that differences in Id expression and auto-anti-Id production are the consequences of the interaction of Id (and anti-Id) arising from the marrow with anti-Id (and Id) present in the peripheral T cell population which serves as a repository of information about shifts in Id distribution, resulting from lifelong interactions with environmental and self-antigens.

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