The effect of the DNA polymerase-beta (beta-pol) deficiency on mitogenic response and cytokine production was studied in spleen lymphocytes from 4-5- and 20-22-month-old beta-pol(-/+) mice and their age-matched wild-type littermates. The proliferative response of lymphocytes to Concanavalin A (Con A) and lipopolysaccharide (LPS) was measured by [3H]thymidine incorporation, and the induction of cytokine production (interleukin (IL)-2, IL-4, and interferon necrosis factor (IFN)-gamma) was assessed by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. There was no significant difference in Con A- or LPS-induced proliferation or cytokine production in young beta-pol(-/+) mice compared with young wild-type littermates or in old beta-pol(-/+) mice compared with old wild-type littermates. However, mitogen-induced proliferation and cytokine production changed significantly with age. The proliferative response to Con A and to LPS, and the IL-2 production was significantly lower, and IL-4 and IFN-gamma levels were significantly higher in lymphocytes from old beta-pol(-/+) mice and old wild-type mice than in lymphocytes from young beta-pol(-/+) mice and young wild-type littermates. In addition, flow cytometric analysis showed no significant differences between young beta-pol(-/+) mice and young wild-type littermates or between old beta-pol(-/+) mice and old wild-type littermates in the proportion of B- and T-cell populations, and T-cell subsets. However, the number of lymphocytes expressing CD4+ phenotype slightly decreased and the proportion of lymphocytes expressing CD44/Pgp-1 (memory) phenotype increased with age. Thus, we found no evidence for alteration in immune function in DNA polymerase-beta deficient mice, although they exhibit a decline in immunologic function with age.