Previous studies have shown the existence of both heterogeneous Lyt-1-,2+ suppressor (Ts) cells and cloned Lyt-1+,2- Ts cells which, despite the difference in their Lyt phenotypes, functioned in a similar antigen-specific and major histocompatibility complex (MHC)-restricted fashion to suppress the antibody responses generated by cloned helper T (Th) cells and hapten-primed B cells. Our studies were carried out to assess in further detail the genetically restricted cell interactions that mediate this immune response suppression. We show that the activation of both heterogeneous and cloned Ts cells is antigen-specific and MHC-restricted under our experimental conditions. After appropriate activation, the effector function of both cloned Lyt-1+,2-Ts cells and heterogeneous Lyt-1-,2+ Ts cells was also antigen-specific. In contrast, once activated, Ts cells suppressed the responses generated by cloned Th cells and hapten-primed B cells in an MHC-unrestricted fashion. We also showed, however, that a population of unprimed Lyt-1+,2-T cells was able to significantly alter the genetic restriction requirements for Ts cell function. The activity of this population was itself MHC-restricted, and was observed only when the unprimed Lyt-1+,2-T cells shared the MHC restriction specificity of the cloned Th cells functioning in a given response. When these requirements were satisfied, Lyt-1+,2- T cells significantly modified the suppression mediated by both heterogeneous and cloned Ts cells, resulting in suppression that was then MHC restricted in its effector function as well as in its activation requirements. Thus, our findings suggest that the observed MHC restriction in Ts function is the result of a complex interaction involving Ts cells, Th cells, and an additional population of MHC-restricted Lyt-1+,2- T cells. This newly characterized activity of Lyt-1+,2- T cells functionally resembles that of an MHC-restricted contrasuppressor population that selectively blocks a pathway of MHC-unrestricted Ts activity, while leaving intact susceptibility to MHC-restricted Ts effects.

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