Th1 unresponsiveness can be infectious for unrelated antigens

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CD4+ T cells may be assigned a functional status (Th1 or Th2) according to the cytokines they produce including IL-2, IFN-γ and IL-4. Th1 and Th2 CD4+ T cells deliver different isotype-switching signals to antigen-specific B cells which bias the serum Ig isotypes. The stimulation of Th1 or Th2 responses is influenced by adjuvants and administration of antigen in IFA results in Th1 unresponsiveness as evidenced by: (i) reduced T cell proliferation to antigen; (ii) reduced IFN-γ production in response to antigen; and (iii) reduced IgG2a isotype antigen-specific antibodies following antigen/CFA challenge. The impact of established human gamma globulin (HGG) specific Th1 unresponsiveness on subsequent immunization with an unrelated antigen, human serum albumin (HSA) in Th1-inducing CFA was then examined. When subsequently challenged with a mixture of HSA and HGG in CFA the HGG-specific Th1 unresponsiveness was infectious and dominant, preventing the induction of a Th1 response to HSA. Reduced T cell proliferation, IFN-γ production and IgG2a antibody were consequently observed in response to HSA. The HGG-specific Th1 unresponsiveness was not infectious when HGG/CFA and HSA/CFA were administered at separate sites. This demonstrates that antigen-specific Th1 unresponsiveness can be infectious for new, molecularly unrelated antigens and supports studies showing that Th1-mediated autoimmune diseases such as experimental allergic encephalomyelitis (EAE) and diabetes can be ameliorated using antigens molecularly distinct from the disease-inducing immunogen.

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