Low-density cells (LDC) prepared from peripheral blood by fractionation over hypertonic metrizamide contain 95% of cells with veiled morphology, almost all of which are HLA-DR-positive and have characteristics of antigen-presenting cells. In normal individuals the monoclonal antibodies RFD1 and RFD2 divide these cells into three phenotypically distinct populations, D1+D2-, D1-D2+ and D1-D2-. The RFD1-positive population is nonphagocytic. We have investigated the recovery of LDC in peripheral blood after (T cell-depleted) marrow transplantation, to assess whether defects in antigen-presenting cell (APC) subpopulations could contribute to the prolonged immune-paresis of marrow graft recipients. We find that APC of donor origin and with apparently normal morphology, phenotype, and function appear within 6 weeks of BMT. By three months the donor-derived nonphagocytic RFD1-positive subset has disappeared, although phagocytic RFD2-positive cells remain. The disappearance of the RFD1-positive subset is associated with a loss of antigen presentation by patients' LDC of the soluble protein antigen tetanus toxoid, though the capacity to present alloantigen and stimulate in a mixed lymphocyte reaction is retained. Donor-derived RFD1-positive cells and soluble antigen-presenting capacity do not reappear for one year or more. This biphasic recovery of RFD1-positive cells contrasted with the continued production of RFD2-positive APC, implies that the phenotypic and functional distinction between APC subpopulations in peripheral blood also reflects a separate ontogeny. Since these marrow graft recipients retain the phagocytic (RFD2-positive) APC but lose the nonphagocytic (RFD1-positive) APC subset, there is now an opportunity to explore the role of each subset in antigen processing and presentation.
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