Newborns are unable to produce normal amounts of immunoglobulin despite the presence of circulating lymphocytes with surface immunoglobin (Ig). This study was designed to examine the cellular basis of such impaired Ig synthesis in the newborn infant. An in vitro assay for IgG and IgM synthesis was employed which measured the Ig present in the supernates of pokeweed mitogen-stimulated cord blood and/or adult peripheral mononuclear cells (MNC). Results were as follows: (a) the addition of cord blood MNC to adult MNC suppressed both normal IgG and IgM production; (b) addition of a suspension of adult thymus-derived (T) cells to cord bone marrow-derived (B) cells did not enhance the production of Ig; (c) the addition of cord T cells to adult B cells did not enhance normal Ig production but did significantly depress IgM and IgG synthesis; and (d) irradiation of cord T cells with 2,000 rads removed the suppressive effect of cord T cells on adult MNC. A similar reversal of the suppressive effect exerted by cord MNC was also seen in the presence of 10 microM of hydrocortisone. It appears that the inability of newborn infants to make normal amounts of Ig is a result of a combined B-cell defect and the presence of a steroid-sensitive and radiosensitive suppressor cord T cell.
T Morito, A D Bankhurst, R C Williams Jr