We examined the role of the peptide/MHC ligand in CD4+ T cell differentiation into Th1 or Th2 cells using a TCR αβ transgenic mouse specific for hemoglobin (Hb)(64-76)/I-E(k). We identified two altered peptide ligands of Hb(64-76) that retain strong agonist activity but, at a given dose, induce cytokine patterns distinct from the Hb(64-76) peptide. The ability of these peptides to produce distinct cytokine patterns at identical doses is not due to an intrinsic qualitative property. Each peptide can induce Th2 cytokines at low concentrations and Th1 cytokines at high concentrations and has a unique range of concentrations at which these distinct effects occur. The pattern of cytokines produced from limiting dilution of naive T cells demonstrated that the potential to develop an individual Th1 or Th2 cell is stochastic, independent of Ag dose. We propose that the basis for the observed effects on the Th1/Th2 balance shown by the altered peptide ligands and the amount of Ag dose involves the modification of soluble factors in bulk cultures that are the driving force that polarize the population to either a Th1 or Th2 phenotype.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1923-1930
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 15 1999


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