Hodgkin's disease (HD) is associated with a deficit in T-cell immunity characterized by skin test anergy and decreased lymphocyte responses to phytohemagglutinin (PHA). To investigate this mitogen hyporesponsiveness in HD, we separated peripheral blood mononuclear cells on Ficoll-Hypaque gradients and determined their response to various suboptimal concentrations of PHA. As was expected, patients with HD demonstrated marked mitogen hyporesponsiveness relative to normal controls; however, if the cell suspensions were first passed through glass wool columns to remove adherent cells, the PHA responsiveness of the hyporesponsive HD cells was markedly increased. In contrast, the responsiveness of normal controls was decreased so that the responses of nonadherent normal and HD cells were statistically indistinguishable. Evidently, a glass wool-adherent suppressor cell had been removed from patients with HD, while a glass wool-adherent cell which enhanced mitogenic responses had been removed from normal controls during column passage. Previous to column depletion, patients with HD had decreased proportions of E-rosettes and increased proportions of cells with surface α-fetoprotein; however, the proportion of these cells was not changed after column passage. Significant changes with column depletion of glass wool-adherent cells in HD were recorded in the proportions of monocytes (13.2 vs 5.8%) and lymphocytes with C-3 receptors (12.6 vs. 7.8%). The only significant change in normal controls was a decrease in the proportion of monocytes (10 vs. 1.7%). To determine if glass-adherent cells would have a suppressor effect, HD-adherent cells were added in progressively increasing numbers to mononuclear cell suspensions depleted of glass wool-adherent cells. PHA responsiveness returned toward predepletion levels. In summary, patients with HD possess a glass wool-adherent suppressor cell which is responsible at least in part for in vitro mitogen hyporesponsiveness.
W. L. Sibbitt Jr., A. D. Bankhurst, R. C. Williams Jr.