While T cells from SJL and from F1 hybrids of SJL that do not express I-E antigens give strong proliferative responses to RCS, T cells from F1 hybrids expressing surface I-E do not. The nature of the stimulating antigen on the RCS cell surface was examined using monoclonal antibodies. Complete inhibition of the T-cell proliferative response was obtained with antibodies to I-A antigens, whereas antibodies to I-E antigens did not inhibit at all. This inhibition was mediated via an effect of the antibodies on the stimulating cells. Biochemical characterization of immunoprecipitated 125I- and 's S-labeled RCS antigens was performed using two-dimensional gel electrophoresis. Using this technique, I-A antigens were readily detected. However, neither Ia.7-specific antibodies nor antibodies specific for Eα : Eβ complexes precipitated any E alpha or E beta chains. Comparison of I-A antigens from RCS and normal SJL spleen cells revealed minor mobility differences in the gels, possibly due to differences in glycosylation, the significance of which needs to be further evaluated. Examination of RNA extracted from RCS, using E alpha and A alpha cDNA probes showed that RCS cells do not transcribe the E alpha gene as has been shown previously for normal H-2s cells. Furthermore, DNA from RCS cells showed a defect in the E alpha gene similar to that known to exist in normal H-2s cells. Our findings exclude the presence of E alpha on RCS cells and suggest a major role for I-A, either alone or in conjunction with another as yet unidentified cell surface antigen, in the stimulation of T cells.
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