MHC class I-restricted T lymphocyte responses are usually directed to cellular antigenic components resulting from endogenous gene expression. Exogenous, non-replicating antigens, such as soluble proteins, usually fail to enter the class I pathway of antigen processing and presentation. Consistent with this notion, we have recently shown that soluble, exogenous proteins can be efficiently processed for class I presentation in vitro only if they are introduced directly into the target cell cytoplasm. In this report we extend this work to the in vivo situation by introducing soluble protein into the cytoplasm of mouse splenocytes via the osmotic lysis of pinosomes and then using these cells for in vivo immunization. Our results show that cytoplasmic loading of OVA and beta-GAL into H-2b and H-2d splenocytes respectively, resulted in effective in vivo immunogens for class I-restricted CTL. To our surprise, control spleen cell preparations simply incubated with the exogenous, native protein for 10 min at 37 degrees C in isotonic medium and then washed could also induce a comparable class I-restricted CTL response following intravenous injection. Experiments using (H-2b X H-2d)F1 mice showed that protein pulsed splenocytes from one parental strain could effectively "cross prime" T cells restricted to the MHC of the other parental strain. In all cases, target cell recognition by the effector CTL generated by immunization with spleen cell-associated antigen required the antigen to be present in the cell cytoplasm. Thus the CTL do not recognize target cells exposed to soluble, exogenous antigen. These results, reminiscent of analogous experiments with cross priming by minor histocompatibility antigens, argue that class I-restricted processing and presentation of exogenous antigen can occur in vivo following immunization with cell-associated antigen.

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