T cells from genetically susceptible mice developing experimental autoimmune thyroiditis (EAT) proliferate in response to restimulation with mouse thyroglobulin (MTg) in vitro. The in vitro-activated cells adoptively transfer EAT as well as differentiate into cells cytotoxic for syngeneic thyroid monolayers. To examine the kinetics of T cell subset infiltration and distribution in situ after adoptive transfer, we applied the avidin-biotin-peroxidase labeling technique to thyroid sections, utilizing rat monoclonal antibodies followed by a biotinylated rabbit anti-rat antibody. Female CBA donor mice were immunized with MTg and lipopolysaccharide. Their spleen cells were obtained 7 days later, cultured with MTg, and transferred into recipient mice. The thyroids were removed on Days 7, 10, and 14 after transfer and serially sectioned. The early phase of transferred EAT showed a higher percentage of L3T4+ cells compared to Lyt-2+ cells, yielding a ratio of 2.3 and total T cells of about 35%. By Day 10, both T cell subsets had increased to a total of about 56%. However, the relative increase was greater in the Lyt-2+ subset; the nearly doubled percentage was statistically significant, resulting in a downward shift in the subset ratio to 1.7. Little change in the in situ distribution was seen on Day 14. The percentages of F4/ 80+ (macrophage) population in lesions examined on Days 10 and 14 were fairly constant and B cell involvement was minimal. These findings illustrate the pathogenic role of both T cell subsets in adoptively transferred EAT and the time-dependent changes in their relative proportions leading to thyroid gland destruction.
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