In murine schistosomiasis mansoni the soluble egg Ag (SEA)-induced L3T4+ T cell-mediated circumoval granulomatous response peaks at the acute stage (8w) and undergoes Lyt-1+, Lyt-2+ suppressor cell mediated down-modulation at the chronic stage (20w) of the infection. In the present study lymphoproliferation, IL-2 production, utilization, and IL-2R display were examined in splenic lymphocytes of infected mice. The L3T4+ subset was the major SEA-specific proliferative population at both stages of the infection. Chronic infection spleen cells or the L3T4+ subset proliferated less compared with their acute infection counterparts. Elimination of the Lyt-2+ subset did not improve diminished proliferation. Chronic infection cells and the Lyt-2+ subset stimulated with SEA and exogenous rIL-2 regained their proliferative ability to a level comparable with acute infection cells. Ag-stimulated acute infection T cells produced 40 to 50 chronic infection cells less than 5 U/ml IL-2. Elimination of L3T4+ T cells diminished, and the Lyt-2+ T cells left unchanged IL-2 production in the acute infection cells. Elimination of Lyt-2+ subset from the chronic infection population did not enhance IL-2 production. Exogenously added rIL-2 was equally utilized by acute or chronic infection T cells. Scatchard plots of [125I]IL-2 binding showed similar numbers of high affinity receptors on acute (189) and chronic infection cells (118), but the number of low affinity receptors was higher on the acute (2229) vs the chronic infection lymphocytes (578). Analysis of IL-2R expression by two-color fluorescence and flow cytometry revealed that 30 to 40% of the acute, chronic infection L3T4+ cells displayed receptor. Receptor expression increased by added SEA, or SEA + rIL-2. R display among Lyt-2+ cells was only 12 to 18%. SEA stimulation enhanced receptor display more among the acute, SEA + rIL-2 stimuli raised receptor expression only among chronic infection lymphocytes. These data do not show inherent defect in IL-2R display, or utilization in chronic infection T cells. Diminished IL-2 production appears to be the cause of decreased T cell responsiveness.