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Purified CD4+ BALB/c spleen T cells obtained 4-6 wk after total lymphoid irradiation (TLI) helped normal syngeneic B cells to produce a vigorous antibody response to TNP keyhole limpet hemocyanin in adoptive cell transfer experiments. However, the same cells failed to transfer delayed-type hypersensitivity to the adoptive hosts as measured by a foot pad swelling assay. In addition, purified CD4+ cells from TLI- treated mice were unable to induce graft vs. host disease in lethally irradiated allogeneic C57BL/Ka recipient mice. In response to mitogen stimulation, unfractionated spleen cells obtained from TLI mice secreted normal levels of IL-4 and IL-5, but markedly reduced levels of IL-2 and INF-gamma. A total of 229 CD4+ clones from spleen cells of both normal and TLI-treated mice were established, and the cytokine secretion pattern from each clone was analyzed. The results demonstrate that the ratio of Th1- and Th2-like clones in the spleens of normal BALB/c mice is 1:0.6, whereas the ratio in TLI mice is approximately 1:7. These results suggest that Th2-like cells recover rapidly (at approximately 4-6 wk) after TLI treatment and account for the early return of antibody helper activity and secretion of IL-4 and IL-5, but Th1-like cells recover more slowly (in approximately 3 mo) after irradiation, and this accounts for the deficit in cell-mediated immunity and the reduced amount of IL-2 and IFN-gamma secretion.