The effects of progesterone on murine suppressor cell function generated in allogeneic MLCs were investigated. BALB/c splenic lymphocytes stimulated in vitro with C3H/He cells significantly suppressed the proliferative response of BALB/c lymphocytes in a secondary MLC. This suppression was highly specific for the sensitizing alloantigens since the suppressor cells had no effect on the proliferative response of BALB/c lymphocytes to third-party alloantigens. In addition, BALB/c lymphocytes stimulated with syngeneic cells were observed to nonspecifically suppress the MLC response to a lesser extent. One to 10 μg/ml progesterone added at initiation to suppressor cell generating cultures diminished the ability of both alloantigen specific and nonspecific suppressor cell populations to suppress the proliferative response of homologous lymphcytes to alloantigens. Experiments with pyrilamine, an antihistamine, which blocks cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) generation, suggests that progesterone has a direct inhibitory effect on suppressor cell function independent of its ability to block CTL induction. The effects of progesterone on suppressor cells were not due to shifts in peak response time in MLC or induction of radiosensitive cells in progesterone-treated cultures. Estradiol at doses between 5 and 10 μg/ ml, and cortisol at dose of 1 μg/ml, also significantly inhibited suppressor cell function. These results suggest that the steroid hormone milieu within the placenta may effect the activity of allogeneic or nonspecific suppressor cell activity.
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