Delayed-type hypersensitivity (DTH) is an important in vivo manifestation of cell-mediated immunity. We examined the DTH response to methylated bovine serum albumin of a novel mutant strain of mice that have soluble CD4 (sCD4) in their circulation without expression of CD4 on the cell surface. The DTH response of the mutant mice was severely impaired, although the response of CD4 knockout (KO) mice, generated by homologous recombination, was comparable to that of wild-type mice. The response of the mutant mice was restored by the neutralization of sCD4 with anti-CD4, and that of CD4KO mice was markedly reduced by the implantation of a diffusion chamber containing sCD4 cDNA transfectant cells. The restored DTH response of the mutant mice treated with anti-CD4 was abolished by treatment with anti-interferon-γ (IFN-γ). IFN-γ production by CD4 mutant and CD4KO mice was consistent with their DTH response and inversely related to the presence of sCD4 in their circulation, indicating that sCD4 impairs the DTH response by blocking the production of IFN-γ in our mutant mice. These results raise the possibility that sCD4 could impair cell-mediated immunity. Our mutant mice would provide a useful tool with which to analyse the mechanisms of the DTH reaction.
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