Frequencies and Interactions of Regulatory T Cells. I. The Balance between Help and Suppression Regulates the Primary Immune Response to Keyhole Limpet Hemocy

Bernhard Maier, Rita Rzepka, Inga Melchers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

6 Scopus citations


Frequencies and efficiencies of regulatory T cells from non-immunized mice were estimatedin several assay systems differing from each other in cellular composition and antigen dose (NIP-KLH). The NIP-specific and total IgM responses were quantified. Using 104 syngeneic B cells and 50 υg/ml NIP-KLH, helper (Th) cells from 5 day immune donors were detected in frequencies of 1:3000-1:4000 in lymphnode and spleen T cells, with an efficiency of 70-90 ng IgM/Th cell in C57B1/6 mice. In non-immune spleen T cells, Th cells were observed in frequencies of 1:16,000-1:38,000, with comparable efficiency, but these Th cells appeared suppressed at increased T cell doses. Polyclonal activation led to the appearance of multiple independently regulated populations of Th cells with similar efficiencies. In the presence of 105 syngeneic spleen cells, treated once with anti-Thy-1 antibody and complement and 50 υg/ml NIP-KLH, suppressor activity was observed in the same T cell population. Similar to help, suppression fluctuated with increasing T cell numbers. Using 1 × 106 spleen cells and 50 υg/ml NIP-KLH as assay system, T cells enhanced the responses. Again, several independently regulated populations were observed, with efficiencies slightly higher than those of the above-described Th cells. By maintaining the cellular components of the assay system constant (104 B cells) and titrating the antigen, Th cell frequencies showed little variation up to 100 υg/ml NIP-KLH and were always suppressed at higher T cell numbers. At 200 υg/ml NIP-KLH, the frequency was increased to 1:2000, and not suppressed, i.e., was identical to the frequency observed in mice immunized 5 days previously. Efficiencies increased with increasing doses of antigen. The results strongly indicate that regulatory T cell function shows ≪plasticity≫, in the sensethat the appearance and the frequencies of helping and suppressing T cell populations highly depend on the micro-environment present in culture.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)68-85
Number of pages18
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1989
Externally publishedYes


  • 4-hydroxy-3-iodo-5-nitrophenyl
  • CFA
  • Complete Freund's adjuvant
  • F
  • Fraction of negative cultures
  • KLH
  • NIP
  • NP
  • SRC
  • Tcs
  • Th
  • Thi
  • Tr
  • Ts
  • contra suppressor T cells
  • enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay
  • helper T cells
  • helper inducer T cells
  • keyhole limpet hemocyanin
  • nitrophenyl
  • regulatory T cells
  • sheep erythrocytes
  • suppressor T cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Hematology

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