The importance of CD4+ cells in resistance to Pneumocystis carinii (PC) in PC-susceptible severe combined immunodeficient (SCID) mice that were made resistant to PC by immunocompetent spleen cell transfer, and in conventional PC-resistant mice, was investigated. SCID mice with naturally acquired PC pneumonia (PCP) were given infusions of spleen cells from immunocompetent donors. This reconstitution caused the recipients to resolve their PCP. Treatment of reconstituted SCID mice with anti-CD4 monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) to deplete them of CD4+ cells eliminated their ability to resolve PCP, whereas treating them with anti-CD8 mAb to deplete CD8+ cells had no effect. The findings indicate, therefore, that resistance to PCP in immunologically reconstituted SCID mice is dependent on CD4+ cells. To determine whether CD4+ cells enable conventional mice to resist PCP, B6D2 mice were treated with anti-CD4 mAb to deplete them of CD4+ cells in an attempt to induce PCP. After 10-11 wk of treatment, these mice developed progressive PCP. Taken together, these results indicate that loss of CD4+ cells predisposes mice to PC infection.

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