In the present study, there was a complete lack of autologous MLR between responding T cells or T subsets and unirradiated or irradiated leukemic B cells or monocytes in all 20 patients with CLL, regardless of disease status, stage, phenotype, or karyotype of the disease. The stimulating capacity of unirradiated CLL B cells and CLL monocytes or irradiated CLL B cells was significantly depressed as compared to that of respective normal B cells and monocytes in allogeneic MLR. The responding capacity of CLL T cells was also variably lower than that of normal T cells against unirradiated or irradiated normal allogeneic B cells and monocytes. The depressed allogeneic MLR between CLL B cells or CLL monocytes and normal T cells described in the present study could be explained on the basis of a defect in the stimulating antigens of leukemic B cells or monocytes. The decreased allogeneic MLR of CLL T cells might simply be explained by a defect in the responsiveness of T lymphocytes from patients with CLL. However, these speculations do not adequately explain the complete lack of autologous MLR in these patients. When irradiated CLL B cells or irradiated CLL T cells were cocultured with normal T cells and irradiated normal B cells, it was found that there was no suppressor cell activity of CLL B cells or CLL T cells on normal autologous MLR. Our data suggest that the absence or dysfunction of autoreactive T cells within the Tnon-gamma subset account for the lack of autologous MLR in patients with CLL. The possible significance of the autologous MLR, its relationship to in vivo immunoregulatory mechanisms, and the possible role of breakdown of autoimmunoregulation in the oncogenic process of certain lymphoproliferative and autoimmune diseases in man are discussed.

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