BioBreeding Worcester diabetes-prone (BBdp) rats develop insulin-dependent autoimmune-driven diabetes mellitus spontaneously and intravenous administration of 1 x 10(7) p.f.u. of lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) to young adult mice prevents disease. The virus is lymphotropic, binding to and replicating in such cells. BBdp rats fail to generate virus-specific major histocompatibility complex-restricted cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) responses when challenged with this dose or other doses of LCMV, Pichinde virus or vaccinia virus. Yet such rats clear virus effectively and show no evidence of persistent infection. Associated with this clearance of virus and establishment of immunity is the production of neutralizing antibodies. In contrast, diabetes-resistant (BBdr) rats generate virus-specific CTL responses. Furthermore LCMV binds to fewer lymphoid cells of BBdr rats (in comparison to those of BBdp rats) and replicates in fewer lymphocytes (by one order of magnitude) from these rats. Thus, unlike mice in which CTLs play a dominant role in the control of LCMV infection, BBdp rats do not overcome this infection via CTLs. In addition, both the BBdp rats and their BBdr counterpart may provide useful models for determining whether or how individual lymphocyte subsets function in the induction of CTL responses, for the analysis of virus-induced immunosuppression and for the use of viruses or their products as therapeutic modalities.