We described a generalized suppression of CTL anamnestic responses that occurred in mice bearing large tumor nodules or immunized with powerful recombinant viral immunogens. Immune suppression entirely depended on GM-CSF-driven accumulation of CD11b(+)/Gr-1(+) myeloid suppressor cells (MSC) in secondary lymphoid organs. To further investigate the nature and properties of MSC, we immortalized CD11b(+)/Gr-1(+) cells isolated from the spleens of immunosuppressed mice, using a retrovirus encoding the v-myc and v-raf oncogenes. Immortalized cells expressed monocyte/macrophage markers (CD11b, F4/80, CD86, CD11c), but they differed from previously characterized macrophage lines in their capacities to inhibit T lymphocyte activation. Two MSC lines, MSC-1 and MSC-2, were selected based upon their abilities to inhibit Ag-specific proliferative and functional CTL responses. MSC-1 line was constitutively inhibitory, while suppressive functions of MSC-2 line were stimulated by exposure to the cytokine IL-4. Both MSC lines triggered the apoptotic cascade in Ag-activated T lymphocytes by a mechanism requiring cell-cell contact. Some well-known membrane molecules involved in the activation of apoptotic pathways (e.g., TNF-related apoptosis-inducing ligand, Fas ligand, TNF-alpha) were ruled out as candidate effectors for the suppression mechanism. The immortalized myeloid lines represent a novel, useful tool to shed light on the molecules involved in the differentiation of myeloid-related suppressors as well as in the inhibitory pathway they use to control T lymphocyte activation.
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