The therapeutic efficacies of ART-18, ART-65, and OX-39, mouse antibodies of IgG1 isotype recognizing distinct epitopes of the p55 beta chain of the rat IL-2-R molecule, were probed in LEW rat recipients of (LEW X BN)F1 heterotopic cardiac allografts (acute rejection in untreated hosts occurs within 8 d). A 10-d course with ART-18 prolongs graft survival to approximately 21 d (p less than 0.001). Therapy with ART-65, but not with OX-39, was effective (graft survival approximately 16 and 8 d, respectively). Anti-IL-2-R mAb treatment selectively spared T cells with donor-specific suppressor functions; the CD8+ (OX8+ W3/25-) fraction from ART-18-modified recipients, and primarily the CD4+ (W3/25+ OX8-) subset from ART-65-treated hosts conferred unresponsiveness to naive syngeneic rats after adoptive transfer, increasing test graft survival to approximately 16 and 45 d, respectively. Concomitant administration of ART-18 and ART-65 to recipient animals in relatively low doses exerted a strikingly synergistic effect, with 30% of the transplants surviving indefinitely and 50% undergoing late rejection over 50 d. These studies provide evidence that anti-IL-2-R mAbs selectively spare phenotypically distinct T cells with suppressor functions. The data also suggest that in vivo targeting of functionally different IL-2-R epitopes may produce synergistic biological effects.