Lymphocytes from spleen, peripheral blood, thymus, and lymph node of naive rats, nonimmunosuppressed recipients of MHC-incompatible heart grafts, and cyclosporine-treated recipients of MHC-incompatible heart grafts were tested for their ability to augment or suppress proliferation of naive cells in an in vitro MLR co-culture assay. Rats treated with cyclosporine for only 7 days maintained their grafts indefinitely. Potent suppressor activity was found in the peripheral blood and spleen of adult naive rats. In untreated engrafted rats, increased suppressor activity was found 1 wk after transplantation and increased helper activity 2 wk after transplantation. In contrast, subnormal helper and suppressor activity was found in cyclosporine-treated rats 1 wk after transplantation. Subsequently, suppressor activity peaked at 2 to 3 wk and helper activity at 4 wk after transplantation. Beyond 5 wk, the cyclosporine-treated rat was indistinguishable from naive ungrafted rats. Two types of suppressor activity were identified that differed in buoyant density and cyclophosphamide sensitivity. Neither suppressor activity demonstrated antigen specificity. These data suggest that one role of cyclosporine in this rat model is to delay the initial helper mechanisms until generalized suppressor activity is operable. The increased antigen-nonspecific activity is only transient, presumably until the final antigen-specific mechanisms become operative.