Letter | Published:

Specific Inactivation of Antigen-reactive Cells with 125I-Labelled Antigen

Nature volume 222, pages 12911292 (28 June 1969) | Download Citation



A QUESTION of current interest is whether the initial stages of an immune response—either the induction of antibody formation or of specific tolerance—may involve the reaction of an antigen with a specific lymphocyte. Naor and Sulitzeanu1 have demonstrated, both in vivo and in vitro, a reaction of 125I-labelled bovine serum albumin with a small proportion (about 1/5,000) of mouse spleen lymphocytes. We have since shown2 that both flagellin and polymerized flagellin (Salmonella adelaide) and haemocyanin (Jasus lalandii) labelled with 125I or 131I react in vitro with certain cells from spleens of rats and mice. Of the strongly reactive cells, almost all are mononuclear with a high nuclear/cytoplasmic ratio and 7–12 microns in diameter and, for any one antigen, comprise about 1/5,000 of the total cell population. These reactive cells adsorb between 4,000–40,000 molecules of labelled protein when allowed to react at 0° C with labelled protein (about 3 × 1012 molecules/ml.) in 10 per cent foetal calf serum. A similar proportion of such reactive cells was observed in cell suspensions from lymph nodes and thoracic duct lymph, while peritoneal exudate contained a higher proportion and thymus a lower proportion of these cells2. The reaction was not inhibited by concentrations of sodium azide which restricted the uptake of labelled antigen by macrophages but was inhibited, using mouse cells, by rabbit anti-mouse globulin serum. Spleen cells from germ-free and conventional mice reacted equally well with 131I-labelled flagellin2. We wished to know whether the ability of these cells to react with antigen was immunologically significant. Experiments were devised to distinguish between the following possibilities: that the reactive cells were (1) cells present because of a prior experience of the animal with a related antigen, (2) antigen-reactive cells3,4 which had not had prior antigenic experience but which were capable of contributing to a specific immune response such as formation and secretion of antibody, and (3) cells coated non-specifically with cytophilic antibody.

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    • G. L. ADA

    Present address: Department of Microbiology, John Curtin School of Medical Research, Australian National University, Canberra.


  1. The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, Royal Melbourne Hospital, Victoria, 3050, Australia.

    • G. L. ADA


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