An adoptive transfer system was used to monitor physically the behavior of a trace population of TCR transgenic T cells in vivo. After subcutaneous injection of antigen in adjuvant, the antigen-specific cells accumulated first in the paracortical region of the draining lymph nodes, proliferated there for several days, and then moved into lymph node follicles, where they accounted for most of the T cells. They then disappeared slowly from the draining nodes, and the remaining cells were hypersensitive to antigenic stimulation in vitro. In contrast, when the antigen was introduced into the blood, the antigen-specific cells rapidly accumulated in the paracortical regions of all lymph nodes, proliferated there for a short time, but never entered follicles. Most of the cells then rapidly disappeared, leaving behind a population that was hyporesponsive to antigenic stimulation. These results provide a physical basis for the classical finding that antigen-specific memory and tolerance can be influenced by the form of antigen administration.
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The authors thank Drs. M. Mescher, D. Mueller, A. Mondino, and R. Schwartz for helpful suggestions and criticisms concerning this work; R. Merica for noticing that many of the T cells in the follicles of primed adoptive transfer recipients were peptide-specific; and S. Bjornstad for technical assistance. This work was supported in part by National Institutes of Health grants Al-27998 and Al-35298 and by a Pew Scholars Award (M. K. J.).