In vitro studies have revealed that help for cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) induction can be mediated through several pathways, including direct recognition of allogenic class II antigens by CD4+ cells, direct recognition of allogeneic class I antigens by "CD4-independent" CD8+ cells, and "indirect" recognition of peptides of alloantigens presented in association with self class II molecules. Whereas good evidence for the two direct pathways is available in vivo, there is relatively little evidence to show that indirect recognition can initiate graft rejection. This study examined the role of indirect allorecognition during the generation of CTLs in mice as they rejected major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II-deficient skin after depletion of CD8+ T cells in vivo. Recipients were depleted of CD8+ T cells by in vivo treatment with anti-CD8 monoclonal antibody and then grafted with allogeneic skin lacking MHC class II antigens. The mice rejected the skin grafts rapidly. Although flow cytometry showed marked depletion of CD8+ T cells in these mice, we found that (a) CD8+ CTLs were generated and sensitized to MHC class I antigens of the donor; (b) the generation of the CD8+ CTLs required the help in vivo of CD4+ cells, as well as priming with the allogeneic skin graft; and (c) the CD4+ T helper cells were sensitized indirectly to donor peptides presented in association with class II antigens on recipient antigen-presenting cells. These results provide evidence that indirect recognition can provide effective help for CTL induction during graft rejection, even when the cytotoxic T cells are sensitized by determinants expressed only on the donor graft.

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