The induction of tolerance in an anti-idiotypic response was attempted by in vivo exposure to excess idiotype. Monoclonal immunoglobulin from the anti-p-azobenzenearsonate (ABA) hybridoma R16.7 was used as a representative of cross-reactive idiotype-positive (CRI+) antibodies because this hybridoma protein (HP) shares one or more closely related public idiotypic determinants with the serum CRI in A/J mice. Immunologic unresponsiveness was established by a single injection of the R16.7 idiotype and persisted for at least 6 wk. The level of circulating anti-idiotypic antibodies in tolerized A/J mice was significantly depressed after immunogenic challenge with eigher antigen, ABA-keyhole limpet hemocyanin (KLH), or the idiotype R16.7 HP. Experimental depletion of anti-idiotypic antibodies by tolerization allowed assessment of immunoregulation within this altered idiotype-anti-idiotype network. Deregulation of idiotype expression in tolerized mice challenged with ABA-KLH was manifest with up to 96% of the anti-ABA antibodies cross-reacting with the R16.7 idiotype. This selective enhancement of a major idiotype was accomplished without substantial alteration of the level of the overall anti-hapten response. Both the unresponsiveness established in anti-idiotypic antibody-producing cells and the enhanced synthesis in idiotype-producing cells were stable upon adoptive transfer into lethally irradiated, syngeneic recipients. Finally, previous immunization with the antigen ABA-KLH interfered with the induction of unresponsiveness to the idiotype. This interference is presumed to be mediated by prior activation of anti-idiotypic cells and/or antibody because injection of antigen with tolerogenic idiotype did not abrogate tolerance induction.