Because bone marrow (BM) transplantation is used with increasing frequency, it is important to elucidate the mechanisms involved in the establishment of tolerance to host minor histocompatibility antigens (MiHA) in recipients transplanted with T-cell-undepleted marrow grafts. We have previously shown that BM chimeras transplanted across MiHA barriers showed specific unresponsiveness to MiHA expressed on recipient-type concanavalin A blasts. Because expression of many MiHA is tissue-specific, we wanted to determine if chimera T lymphocytes would be tolerant to MiHA expressed by all host tissues and organs. To investigate this issue, we measured in vivo proliferation of lymphoid cells from normal C57BL/10 (B10) mice and (B10-->LP) chimeras in tissues and organs of lethally irradiated syngeneic and allogeneic recipients. Donor B10 cells were either untreated, or depleted with anti-Thy-1.2, anti-CD4, or anti-CD8 antibodies. Transplantation of B10 cells in LP recipients triggered an important T-cell-dependent 125I- dUrd uptake in several organs that involved both CD4+ and CD8+ cells. Using Thy-1-congeneic mice we showed that in long-term chimeras practically all CD4+ and CD8+ T lymphocytes were derived from hematopoietic progenitors and not from mature T cells present in the BM graft. When (B10-->LP) BM chimera cells were injected to secondary recipients, no proliferation was observed in any organ of LP hosts whereas normal proliferation was seen in H-2k allogeneic hosts. Thus, in these BM chimeras, tolerance encompasses MiHA expressed by all organs.

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