The requirement for helper T cells in the in vivo and in vitro T cell response to a diverse panel of minor histocompatibility antigens in mice was investigated. Target H antigens included: (a) multiple antigens distinguishing H-2—matched, inbred strains, and (b) single H antigens, including H-4, H-3, and the male-specific (H-Y) antigen. The involvement of helper T cells in skin allograft rejection and CTL priming was evaluated by pretreating graft recipients with anti-CD4 antibody. Anti-CD4 treatment had no effect on rejection of H-3-and H-4-incompatible skin grafts, but slowed rejection of male and BALB.B skin grafts. Comparable pretreatment with anti-CD4 antibody in vivo eliminated the priming of H-4-specific CTL, multiple BIO.BR anti-CBA/J CTL, and all but a minor C57BL/6 anti-BALB.B CTL population. However, CTL specific for the two classes of H antigens, single and multiple minor H antigens, differed in their in vitro requirements for CD4+ helper T cells: (a) multiple antigen-specific CTL required CD4* helper T cells for optimal expansion, and (b) CTL specific for single H antigens expanded in the absence of helper T cells. The CTL specific for all tested H antigens were CD8+ T cells. These results suggest that CD4+ helper T cells are not always required for effective skin allograft rejection or CTL expansion in vitro; the requirement for helper T cells is apparently dependent upon the identity of the stimulatory minor H antigen(s). This variable dependency contrasts with the evident requirement for helper T cells in the in vivo priming of CTL specific for minor H antigens.
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