In an attempt to study the role of class I major histocompatibility complex antigens in inducing immunological unresponsiveness, the survival rates of hepatic allografts were compared in rats pretreated with blood taken from various rat strains. A single intravenous injection of 1 ml fresh heparinized whole blood seven days before transplantation significantly prolonged the survival of subsequent donor-specific hepatic allografts in the fully allogeneic ACI(RT1a)-to-LEW(RT1l) rat combination. However, pretreatment with blood taken from the third-party strain BN(RT1n) did not produce suppression of rejection, attesting to the specificity of the pretransplant transfusion effect. Interestingly, pretransplant transfusion of PVG.rl blood, sharing only the RT1.A MHC region with ACI, significantly prolonged the survival of ACI-to-LEW hepatic allografts. In addition, no lymphocytotoxic antibodies could be detected at 30 or 100 days after transplantation in animals with long-surviving hepatic allografts pretreated with either PVG.rl or ACI whole blood. On the other hand, pretreatment with PVG(RT1C) blood increased the survival of ACI-to-LEW hepatic allografts only moderately compared with controls. This finding may be consistent with a partial effect of some third-party blood transfusion. The experimental data suggest that the class I MHC antigens can be immunosuppressive in rat hepatic allografts. Adoptive transfer of 5 × 107 splenocytes taken from long-term-surviving hepatic allografts pretreated with donor ACI whole blood or PVG.rl blood into irradiated (760 rads) LEW rats prolonged the survival of donor-type skin grafts, whereas third-party strain (BN) grafts were rejected. This finding suggests the presence of donor-specific suppressor cells.
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