Serum collected from outbred male New Zealand white rabbits infected intratesticularly with Treponema pallidum (Nichols) was assayed for ability to alter transformation of normal rabbit peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBL) in vitro. Sera collected from 25 infected rabbits inhibited [3H]thymidine incorporation by normal rabbit PBL stimulated with concanavalin A (Con A, 16μg/ml), relative to PBL cultured in normal rabbit serum (NRS). Maximal inhibitory activity was detected in serum collected at the time of peak orchitis. The degree of inhibition was related to the concentration of syphilitic serum in PBL cultures. Inhibition of Con A stimulation was reversed by increased mitogen concentration. Sera which depressed Con A stimulation also depressed lymphocyte transformation induced by oxidation with sodium m-periodate (NaIO4). Cytotoxic activity was detected in occasional sera. All sera were heat inactivated at 56 °C for 30 min prior to testing. Both freshly collected sera and sera stored at -70 °C significantly inhibited PBL transformation. These results suggested that serum of syphilitic rabbits contains one or more inhibitors of in vitro lymphocyte transformation.
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