We have previously demonstrated that rats fed ovalbumin (OVA) develop a tolerogenic activity in serum, which upon transfer induces tolerance to OVA and suppression of the immune response to a bystander antigen. Here, we have extended these studies and analysed if the tolerogenic activity in serum could suppress an established immune response in the recipients. Rats were immunized with OVA, 4 and 1 week prior to the transfer of serum from either OVA-fed or control animals.
Rats that received serum from OVA-fed donors had significantly lower delayed-type hypersensitivity (DTH) reaction against OVA 1 week after the serum transfer compared with the controls, and the levels of immunoglobulin (IgG) anti-OVA antibodies were significantly lower 2 and 4 weeks after serum transfer. Monomeric OVA in amounts corresponding to the OVA transferred with serum did not induce the reduction of DTH response or IgG anti-OVA antibody levels. In vitro, the proliferation of OVA-stimulated spleen cells, taken from recipients of tolerogenic serum, was significantly lower compared with spleen cells from the controls. The in vitro suppression seemed to be mediated by a population of CD25+ cells, because the removal of such cells from OVA-stimulated spleen cell suspensions resulted in increased proliferation in cultures from rats receiving tolerogenic serum. Our results showed that the tolerogenic serum factor can suppress an established immune response in recipient animals, possibly through induction of regulatory CD25+ cells. Whether this capacity might be used to influence chronic inflammatory conditions needs to be investigated.