The effects of treatments with cyclophosphamide (CY), hydrocortisone and anti-thymocyte sera (ATS) on the development of adjuvant arthritis (AA) were examined in WKA rats inoculated with wax D to induce AA. A single injection of 25 to 50 mg/kg of CY given 2 to 3 days before wax D inoculation caused severe arthritis with high incidence, whereas larger doses of CY were less efficient. Furthermore, the enhancing effect of CY pretreatment was abolished by passively transferred normal syngeneic thymocytes 1 day before wax D inoculation, but not by thymocytes that had been treated with ATS and guinea pig C. On the basis of these results and the previous observations on the effect of adult thymectomy and low-dose irradiation, we concluded that this enhancing effect of CY pretreatment was caused by selective depletion of suppressor T lymphocytes. Pretreatment with 12.5 mg of hydrocortisone also caused severe arthritis. This enhancing effect of hydrocortisone could also be due to the elimination of those suppressor cells. In contrast, in vivo pretreatment with ATS showed striking inhibition on the development of AA, suggesting that ATS could eliminate T lymphocytes that were responsible for eliciting this disease. Thus it appears that at least two T cell subpopulations are involved in the development of AA, one is an ATS-sensitive T2 subpopulation that is effective for induction of AA and the other is a T1 subpopulation that regulates this disease process.