Intrathymic, Ia-bearing antigen-presenting cells (APC) are believed to play an important role in the development of a mature, functional T-cell repertoire. We used chronic in vivo treatment of neonatal mice with anti-I-A monoclonal Ab (MAb) to examine the expression of I-A and I-E antigens on intrathymic and peripheral APC. Three weeks after continuous treatment with anti-I-A MAb, FACS analysis of unfractionated spleen cells revealed a 75-90% reduction in the number of I-A-bearing cells. Splenic antigen-presenting capacity measured by the ability of unseparated or density gradient-enriched APC to stimulate I-A- or I-E-reactive T-cell hybridomas was also greatly reduced. In contrast to the expression of I-A and I-E molecules in the splenic APC, anti-I-A MAb treatment resulted in decreased thymic APC I-A expression without significant changes in I-E as measured by FACS analysis. This was confirmed in functional studies in which allo-I-A- or auto-I-A-reactive T-cell hybridomas could not be stimulated by treated thymic APC. Unlike splenic APC, anti-I-A-treated thymic APC did not differ significantly from normals in their ability to stimulate allo-I-E-reactive T hybridomas. This lack of linkage or comodulation of I-A and I-E expression on thymic but not splenic APC may allow us to study the role of I-A molecules and I-E molecules on the development and expansion of functional, mature T-cell repertoires.
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