Previous studies involving the function and development of peripheral T cells have proposed that, in the rat, CD4(+)CD45RC(+)RT6(-) and CD4(+)CD45RC(-)RT6(+) T-cell subsets may represent Th1 and Th2 cells, respectively. Here we tested this hypothesis directly by analyzing frequencies of IFN-gamma- and IL-4-producing cells in these two subpopulations using ELISPOT assays. We found that the CD4(+)CD45RC(-)RT6(+) subset showed higher numbers of IL-4-producing cells than the CD4(+)CD45RC(+)RT6(-) subset and, though less pronounced, that the latter demonstrated higher numbers of IFN-gamma producers. Therefore, we conclude that our results provide evidence for the existence of phenotypically defined Th1 and Th2 cells in the rat. This is supported by the finding that the ratios of IFN-gamma/IL-4 and CD45RC/RT6 correlated positively among various rat strains. Finally, rat strains susceptible to induction of a Th1-mediated autoimmune disease showed the highest CD45RC/RT6 ratio, whereas the reverse was true for strains susceptible to a Th2-mediated autoimmune disease.
Copyright 2000 Academic Press.