Neonatal splenic B cells which are responsive to thymus-dependent antigens (TD) are exquisitely susceptible to induction of tolerance (1,2). This state of tolerance is not mediated by suppressor T cells and is not a result of suboptimal macrophage function (1 and footnote one). In adult mice, induction of B-cell tolerance is not achieved with doses of antigen 1,000-fold higher (1) than those required to produce the same degree of unresponsiveness in neonates.
In contrast to these results, studies with T-independent (TI) antigens indicate that neonatal and adult splenic B cells are equally susceptible to tolerance induction (3,4). However, such studies have not ascertained whether the neonate is more resistant to tolerance induction or the adult is hypersusceptible, i.e., does the induction of tolerance in cells responsive to TI antigens resemble that of adult or neonatal cells responsive to TD antigens? The answer is pertinent to determining the relative maturity of the B cells which can be tolerized or respond to TI or TD antigens.
We report here the direct comparison of tolerogen sensitivity of adult and neonatal TD and TI responses by inducing tolerance in vitro with trinitophenyl human gamma globulin (TNP(17)HgG) and assaying unresponsiveness with TD and TI forms of the TNP determinant.