Characterization of a factor in leprosy serum that inhibits the growth of mitogen-stimulated normal human lymphocytes.
A factor that inhibits the growth of mitogen-stimulated lymphocytes from normal donors has been detected in the sera of patients with chronic leprosy. The inhibitory activity was detected with similar frequency in patients with tuberculoid or lepromatous leprosy, although higher levels of activity were detected in the latter. The factor reduced the growth in volume of the lymphocytes in the first 24 hr after stimulation, the synthesis of RNA during the first 3 days of culture and the replication of DNA in 72-hr cultures. All the inhibitory activity co-purified with IgG on gel filtration, ammonium sulphate fractionation and ion exchange chromatography. The activity was stable to heating at 56 degrees but labile at 100 degrees and was absorbed from serum or from purified IgG preparations by staphylococcal protein A. On gel filtration of the sera on Sephadex G-200, none of the activity appeared in the void volume, indicating that it is not due to immune complexes. We conclude that the activity is due to an IgG antibody and suggest that it is an autoantibody since the sera inhibited the growth of all donor lymphocytes tested.