Neonatal Borna disease virus infection in the rat causes a loss of Purkinje cells in the cerebellum.
Compelling evidence has been presented that tolerance to major histocompatibility complex (MHC) and other antigens expressed on cells of the thymus is due to clonal deletion. However, it has not been determined conclusively how tolerance to diverse antigens, which may initially interact with the immune system in the periphery, is induced and maintained. Considerable evidence exists to suggest that mechanisms other than deletion, such as clonal anergy or immunoregulation, may be involved. We have previously shown that the clonal deletion of CD4+ cells specific for bovine gamma globulin (BGG) does not occur during induction of tolerance to this soluble antigen in adult life. In this study we have extended our previous findings by examining unresponsiveness to BGG which had been established during early ontogeny, when natural tolerance of self-antigens is likely to develop. It is demonstrated here that BGG-reactive, CD4+8- T cells, which proliferate and secrete interleukin-2 on stimulation with BGG in vitro, can be obtained from mice rendered tolerant of BGG as neonates. Even though the mice from which they were derived were unable to respond to BGG, these BGG-reactive T cells, by the parameters tested here, could not readily be distinguished from the corresponding cells in BGG-immune and non-immune animals. It is therefore evident that this tolerant state is not simply the result of clonal deletion of BGG-reactive CD4+ T cells but is more likely to be due to a reversible mechanism which controls their responsiveness in vivo.