We have used a line of T cell receptor (TcR) transgenic mice, in which a significant portion of CD8+ T cells expresses a TcR that is specific for the minor histocompatibility antigen H-Y presented by the H-2Db Class I molecule, to examine the immune response to H-Y-incompatible skin or pancreatic islet allografts. Our results indicate that, in contrast to the conclusions of previous reports, pancreatic islet endocrine cells are invulnerable or only weakly vulnerable to an H-Y-directed immune response. An even more unexpected finding was that unlike normal female mice of the C57BL/6 background which consistently reject male skin within a few weeks, TcR transgene+ littermates reject male skin only infrequently. Our results are consistent with the conclusion that the inability of H-Y TcR females to reject male skin is due to a deficiency of cells with male-specific helper activity. Long-term acceptance of male grafts by H-Y TcR females leads to a state of T cell hyporesponsiveness to male skin grafts. In addition, T cells harvested from long-term skin acceptors were hyporesponsive to in vitro stimulation by a clonotype-specific monoclonal antibody. Transgenic mice with TcRs having antigenic specificity for defined transplantation antigens provide a unique model for study of the allograft response.
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