Different groups of C57BL/ka or BALB/c mice received a dose of 34 Gy or 42 Gy of fractionated total lymphoid irradiation (TLI) before bone marrow transplantation with 30 X 10(6) BALB/c or C57BL nucleated bone marrow cells, respectively. BALB/c mice that were not bred in specific pathogen-free conditions before TLI showed a high morbidity and mortality rate after 34 Gy of TLI and allogeneic bone marrow transplantation as compared with BALB/c or C57BL that were bred in pathogen-free conditions before irradiation. Many of the conventionally bred BALB/c mice had clinical and histologic signs of graft-vs-host disease after TLI and allogeneic bone marrow infusion. Although leucocytosis and lymphocytosis and the immunologic competence as measured with in vitro tests were equally depressed after 34 Gy TLI in BALB/c and C57BL mice, chimerism was nevertheless significantly easier to obtain in BALB/c mice. The incidence of chimerism after TLI could be enhanced in C57BL mice by increasing the total radiation dose from 34 to 42 Gy. This augmentation of chimerism was paralleled by the induction of more suppressor cells after 42 Gy of TLI in C57BL mice.