In this study we compared myelin basic protein (MBP) and phytohemagglutinin (PHA) for their ability to induce proliferation and experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) transfer activity in mixed cell cultures obtained from spleen and lymph nodes versus highly selected MBP-specific T cell lines and clones. Established MBP-specific cells derived initially from immune lymph nodes attained both proliferative and EAE-transfer activities after in vitro activation with either MBP or PHA. In contrast, PHA was unable to induce immune spleen cells to transfer EAE, in spite of its potent mitogenic activity. On the basis of these results, we evaluated the in vitro proliferation and differentiation responses of MBP-specific T cells during the line selection process using cells derived from both immune lymph node and immune spleen. During the initial selection process with MBP, proliferation of MBP-specific T cell precursors from immunized spleen populations was reduced relative to lymph node cells. After antigen-dependent selection the encephalitogenic cells from either organ exhibited identical in vitro response characteristics. Freshly isolated immune spleen cells were potent suppressors of MBP-specific T cell proliferation suggesting that the in vitro differences between the two organs was due to splenic suppression of the encephalitogenic cells.
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