Possible mechanisms of graft-vs.-host (GVH) resistance have been studied using a panel of seven class II major histocompatibility complex-specific T cell clones for elicitation and challenge. One clone recognized I-Ak,d,f, and expressed V beta 8.3 together with J beta 1.5. The remaining six clones were I-Ek specific and expressed V beta 15 rearranged to J beta 1.1 or J beta 1.3. The I-Ek-specific clones were also homologous to each other and different from the I-A-reactive one in the D and N regions. Four of the seven clones exhibited I-Ek-specific cytolytic activity. Each clone, when injected in sublethal numbers into appropriate recipients, could induce resistance to a subsequent lethal dose of any other clone in the panel. The resistance did not require sharing of either T cell receptor beta chains or antigen specificity, or MHC molecules by the eliciting and challenging clone. Cytolytic and noncytolytic clones were equally efficient in inducing GVH resistance. A prerequisite of resistance induction was the activation of eliciting clone subsequent to recognition of class II molecules in the host. Clones preactivated with high concentrations of recombinant interleukin 2, in vitro, could induce GVH resistance also in syngeneic hosts, suggesting that resistance induction was associated with the activated state of clone, rather than antigen recognition per se. In all instances of resistance, the challenging clones failed to induce vascular leakage, which was the cause of death in susceptible recipients (Lehmann, P. V., G. Schumm, D. Moon, U. Hurtenbach, F. Falcioni, S. Muller, and Z. A. Nagy. 1990. J. Exp. Med. 171:1485). Lipopolysaccharide (LPS) induced resistance to vascular leakage did not provide crossresistance to GVH and vice versa, suggesting that interleukin 1 alpha and tumor necrosis factor alpha implicated in LPS resistance are not involved in GVH resistance. Although the mechanism remains unclear, the most likely explanation for GVH resistance in this system is either the downregulation of permeability increasing effect in the challenging clone, or an induced refractoriness of blood vessels to this effect.