We investigated the antigen specificity and presentation requirements for inactivation of T lymphocytes in vitro and in vivo. In vitro studies revealed that splenocytes treated with the crosslinker 1-ethyl-3-(3-dimethylaminopropyl)-carbodiimide (ECDI) and soluble antigen fragments failed to stimulate significant proliferation by normal pigeon cytochrome c-specific T cell clones, suggesting that the chemical treatment inactivated full antigen presentation function. However, T cell clones exposed to ECDI-treated splenocytes and antigen in vitro were rendered unresponsive for at least 8 d to subsequent antigen stimulation with normal presenting cells. As predicted by the in vitro results, specific T cell unresponsiveness was also induced in vivo in B10.A mice injected intravenously with B10.A, but not B10.A(4R), splenocytes coupled with pigeon cytochrome c via ECDI. The antigen and MHC specificity of the induction of this T cell unresponsiveness in vitro and in vivo was identical to that required for T cell activation. These results suggest that nonmitogenic T cell recognition of antigen/MHC on ECDI-modified APCs results in the functional inactivation of T cell clones.

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