Normal spleen cells cultured in high or low concentrations of interleukin (IL) 2 for 3 days contain Thy-1+ CD4- CD8+ cells that powerfully suppress primary but not ongoing or active lymphocyte responses. The precursors of these cells are Thy-1+AGM-1- and are absent or present in greatly diminished numbers in athymic and scid mice. Suppression is neither antigen nor H-2 restricted and apparently results from reversible inactivation of resting lymphocytes. Comparable Thy-1+ CD8+ suppressor cells were also recovered from normal spleen cells cultured for 3 days with anti-CD3 antibody without added IL-2, indicating that these cells can be activated during the course of immune responses. Such cells may prevent local recruitment/activation of lymphocytes specific for new epitopes that may be expressed sequentially by proliferating tumor cells or infectious organisms.
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