T cell lines to myelin basic protein (MBP) developed following in vitro culture cause experimental allergic encephalomyelitis (EAE) upon transfer into naive recipient mice. We have, however, repeatedly observed that MBP-specific T cell lines lose their ability to transfer EAE after 40 days in culture. Analyses of such cell lines failed to show any differences in their proliferative responses to antigen, or in the secretion of interleukin-2 (IL-2) and/or IL-4 when compared to their encephalitogenic counterparts. In contrast, examinations of T cell receptor (TCR) β-chain gene rearrangement patterns showed sequential changes in the clonal population of cells concomitant with the loss of encephalitogenic function. Furthermore, transfer of a non-encephalitogenic, genotypically altered cell line after long-term in vitro culture into mice challenged with MBP suppressed the development of EAE. These findings suggest that the development of such putative regulatory cells in vivo may be involved in the recovery in EAE.
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