Letter | Published:

Transplantation antigens per se are poor immunogens within a species


THE structure of HLA substances make it surprising that they provoke strong alloimmune responses1–3. They are composed of two chains, one invariant within the species, and the other bearing a single determinant defined by monospecific HLA sera4, or a few determinants defined by polyspecific sera4,5, and thus most closely resemble haptens on non-immunogenic carriers. If this is true generally of antigens determined by major histocompatibility systems (MHC), they could be expected to be poorly or non-immunogenic within a species. This, however, conflicts with the evidence that when present on viable tissue grafts, these antigens provoke strong humoral and cellular alloimmune responses6–8. But there is also evidence that their immunogenicity depends on additional factors9,10. Here, we present data which reconcile these seemingly conflicting lines of evidence, by showing that the induction of primary immune responses (humoral and cellular) against MHC antigens in vivo depends both on the presentation of alloantigen and on a second signal provided by a live cell. Without the latter, the small quantities of MHC antigen present on conventional allografts would not induce primary immunity.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.


  1. 1

    Mitchison, N. A. Eur. J. Immun. 1, 10–27 (1971).

  2. 2

    Cecka, J. M., Stratton, J. A., Miller, A. & Sercarz, E. Eur. J. Immun. 6, 639–646 (1976).

  3. 3

    Goodman, J. W., Bellone, C. J., Hanes, D. & Nitecki, D. E. in Progress in Immunology 2, (eds Brent, L. & Holborow, J.) 2, 27–37 (North Holland, Amsterdam, 1974).

  4. 4

    Sanderson, A. R. & Welsh, K. I. Transplantation 18, 197–205 (1974).

  5. 5

    Ayres, J. & Cresswell, P. Eur. J. Immun. 6, 794–799 (1976).

  6. 6

    Gorer, P. A. & Mikulska, Z. B. Cancer Res. 14, 651–655 (1954).

  7. 7

    Brent, L., Medawar, P. B. & Ruszkiewicz, M., in Transplantation (eds Wolstenholme, G. E. W. & Cameron, M. P.) 6–20 (Churchill, London, 1962).

  8. 8

    Simonsen, M. Transplant. Rev. 3, 22–35 (1970).

  9. 9

    Medawar, P. B. in Biological Problems of Grafting (eds Albert, F. & LejeuneLedant., G.) 80 (Blackwell, Oxford, 1959).

  10. 10

    Welsh, K. I., Burgos, H. & Batchelor, J. R. Eur. J. Immun. 7, 267–272 (1977).

  11. 11

    Rolstad, B., Williams, A. F. & Ford, W. L. Transplantation 17, 416–423 (1974).

  12. 12

    Bach, F. H., Bach, M. L. & Sondel, P. M. Nature 259, 273–281 (1976).

  13. 13

    Cantor, H. & Boyse, E. J. exp. Med. 141, 1376–1389 (1975).

  14. 14

    Batchelor, J. R., Shumak, K. H. & Watts, H. G. Transplantation 15, 70–85 (1973).

  15. 15

    Morris, R. J., Letarte-Muirhead, M. & Williams, A. F. Eur. J. Immun. 5, 282–285 (1975).

  16. 16

    Burgos, H., French, M. E. & Batchelor, J. R. Transplantation 18, 328–335 (1974).

  17. 17

    Lafferty, K. J. & Woolnough, J. Transplant. Rev. 35, 231–262 (1977).

  18. 18

    Röllinghof, M. & Wagner, H. Eur. J. Immun. 5, 875–879 (1975).

Download references

Author information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Further reading


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.