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Strain C.B17 scid/scid (SCID) mice, which lack functional T and B lymphocytes, show heightened susceptibility to the induction of thymic lymphomas by x-irradiation. Susceptibility is highest in thymus- chimeric SCID-BL mice (thymectomized SCID mice bearing a C57BL thymus graft). All SCID-BL lymphomas originate in the cells of the thymic graft (C57BL type) and lack murine leukemia virus expression. Both SCID and SCID-BL lymphomas are phenotypically CD4-8+ and/or CD4+8+, but only the SCID-BL tumors express CD3. Injection of C57BL or BALB/c bone marrow into irradiated SCID-BL mice prevents lymphoma development, but SCID marrow is completely ineffective. The results suggest that the scid condition enhances the activity of a putative lymphomagenic agent induced in the bone marrow by x-irradiation and that C57BL thymic cells are highly sensitive targets. Moreover, the failure of SCID bone marrow to protect against lymphomagenesis vs. the efficacy of marrow from immunocompetent donors points to involvement of T or B lineage cells in this process.