Rats of the BB strain develop diabetes mellitus in a high percentage and display a severe T-cell lymphopenia. In order to investigate the role of micro-environmental factors in the T-cell maturation in BB rats the postnatal development of macrophage subpopulations and T-lymphocyte subsets, in addition to the specific immune response in situ, were studied in thymus, spleen and lymph nodes of BB rats. Wistar rats were used as controls. From the day of birth on, a severe reduction was noticed in the macrophage subpopulations in the thymic cortex of BB rats, but not in spleen and lymph nodes, as compared to Wistar rats. The population of T-suppressor/cytotoxic cells (OX8-positive cells) did not increase any longer from Day 10 after birth in the thymic cortex and from Day 14 in spleen and lymph nodes. This is indicative for an intrathymic maturational defect of the OX8-positive cells in BB rats. No deviations could be observed in the development of the T-helper (ER2-positive) cell population. Young adult BB rats were as capable as Wistars of developing a specific immune response to thymus-independent (TI) antigens, but the response to a thymus-dependent (TD) antigen was delayed and decreased. Also the distribution pattern of the specific antibody-containing cells in a TD response in BB rats differed from that in Wistar rats. The ER2-positive cells, although present in normal numbers, may function insufficiently as T-helper cells in BB rats.