The induction of immunoglobulin (Ig) synthesis in the autologous MLR has an absolute requirement for helper/inducer (Leu-3) T cells, whereas an excess of suppressor/cytotoxic (leu-2) cells suppresses the response. The current study was an effort to assess the immunoregulatory potential to T cells activated in the autologous mixed-leukocyte response (MLR). T cells were cultured with autologous non-T cells for 8-9 d, after which the activated T cells were fractionated into subsets with monoclonal antibodies to T cell markers and HLA-DR antigen. Each population was co-cultured in fresh autologous MLR, and on the 8th day of culture, Ig-secreting cells were measured in a reverse hemolytic plaque assay. The results show that activated Leu-2, DR+ T cells, but neither Leu-2, DR- nor Leu-3 T cells, were at least 50 times more potent as suppressors of IgM and IgG synthesis than fresh Leu-2 cells alone. The activation of this Leu-2, DR+ subpopulation required Leu-3 cells in the primary culture. Furthermore, in the absence of Leu-2 cells in the second culture, little or no suppression was observed, suggesting that the Leu-2, DR+ cells act to amplify or induce suppressor effects of fresh Leu-2 cells. This indicates that at least two distinct subpopulations of Leu-2 cells are required for maximal suppression of an immune response, and that immunoregulatory circuits analogous to those described in the mouse exist in man.