Thymectomy on day 3 after birth (3d-Tx) induces autoimmune gastritis (AIG) in 81%, and oophoritis (AIO) in 25% of BALB/c mice at the age of 2 to 3 months. Intrathymic, but not intraperitoneal injection of syngeneic parietal cells into sex-matched BALB/c mice within 24 h of birth resulted in almost complete prevention of the development of AIG in these mice in which 3d-Tx was performed. The prevention induced was parietal cell specific, since the development of AIO was not inhibited in female mice. Moreover, the injection of BALB/c liver cells, Mls-matched (BALB/c) and -disparate (DBA/2) B blasts which resulted in V beta 6 T cell deletion, as well as the injection of staphylococcal enterotoxin B failed to prevent the diseases. These findings suggested that recognition of an autoantigen in the thymus is necessary for the induction of tolerance, and that involvement of Mls-1 antigens in the pathogenesis of AIG, as has been suggested previously (Schwartz, R. H., Cell 1989. 57: 1073), was unlikely. T cells that suppress the development of organ-specific autoimmune diseases in 3d-Tx mice seem to maintain the unresponsiveness of autoreactive T cells at the periphery in normal mice. In agreement with our previous observations, we found that intraperitoneal (i.p.) injection of spleen cells from 3-month-old normal mice into 3d-Tx mice on day 10 after birth prevented the development of AIG, whereas spleen cells from age-matched AIG+ (mice with AIG) or AIG- (mice without AIG) 3d-Tx mice failed to do this. This implies that the suppressor cells probably affect the differentiation of effector-precursor to effector. In fact, these suppressor cells did not inhibit the adoptive transfer of AIG to nu/nu BALB/c mice by spleen cells from 3d-Tx mice manifesting AIG. By negative selection using monoclonal antibody and complement, it was confirmed that the phenotype of the suppressor cell was CD4. In contrast to 3d-Tx, 10d-Tx did not induce AIG, indicating the peripheralization of the suppressor cell by that time. On the other hand, intrathymic injection of parietal cells immediately after birth did not affect suppressor cell generation, implying that some T cells, including suppressor cells, escape thymus selection. We postulate that these cells correspond to the precursors of the autoreactive effector T cells and suppressor T cells that are present in normal mice.