Anti-T3 mAb are being increasingly used clinically in the treatment of organ graft rejection. However, there has not previously been a murine model in which the effects of these mAb on the immune system could be studied in vivo. We have established such a model using the anti-murine-T3 mAb, 145-2C11. Administration of 145-2C11 led to rapid depletion of T cells from peripheral blood and suppression of skin graft rejection. However, depletion of T cells from spleen and lymph node was both delayed and incomplete. Full recovery of T cell number was dependent on the presence of a thymus, but treatment of thymectomized animals revealed that depletion was not the mechanism by which the mAb induced immunosuppression. Rather, alterations in TCR expression may play a more important role. TCR had modulated from T cells in spleen and lymph node early after treatment, and TCR expression remained subnormal for at least 51 days posttreatment. However, subnormal TCR expression alone could not fully explain the observed T cell dysfunction, inasmuch as a period of time existed after TCR re-expression during which T cells appeared to be anergic to CTL and MLR reactivity. These findings implicate T cell dysfunction as an important element in the induction of immunosuppression after anti-T3 administration.