Strain-dependence and cellular aspects of the acceleration of age-dependent shift in class-specific helper and suppressor activity in the thymus of MRL/Mp mice by the LPR gene
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Previous studies of the immunoregulatory activity of thymocytes from SJL/J mice have shown loss of suppressor activity for the antibody response by 24 weeks of age with appearance of helper activity. At the same time, suppressor cells developed which inhibit the generation of cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL). We now show a similar pattern of helper and suppressor activity in MRL/Mp mice. Presence of the lpr/lpr genotype significantly accelerated the onset of these changes in thymocyte activity. A similar pattern of thymocyte activity was not detected in C57B1/6 mice. In aged MRL-lpr mice, evidence of increased suppressor cell activity for the CTL response could be demonstrated in spleen, and the suppressor was sensitive to treatment with anti-thy 1.2 + complement. The magnitude of the deficiency in the CTL response in MRL-lpr mice was greater than could be accounted for by suppressor cell activity alone. Measurement of the frequency of CTL precursors (CTLP), the yield of CTL per CTLP, and the ability to produce and to respond to interleukin 2 (IL-2) indicated that a drop in CTLP frequency, subnormal generation of IL-2, and probably an intrinsic defect in the responsiveness of MRL-lpr CTLP to IL-2 was contributing to the defective CTL response. We were not able to link suppressor T cells with reduced responsiveness to IL-2. Ageing involves different patterns of change in immunoregulatory T-cell subsets in different strains of mice, depending on their genetic constitution. The general implications of this conclusion for prediction of immune dysfunction with age in genetically distinct members of an outbred population are discussed.