A weakness of the hu-PBL-SCID model for the study of human immune functions is the appearance of anergy and the consequent loss of T cell function. We demonstrate here that human T cells retain normal functions during the early stage of chimerism. At 1 and 2 weeks post-engraftment, T cells isolated from the peritoneal cavity of hu-PBL chimeras could be activated and proliferated upon stimulation with phytohaemagglutinin (PHA) or specific antigens to which the cell donor was known to be immune. T cells derived from hu-PBL-SCID and hu-PBL-NOD/LtSz-scid (NOD/SCID) mice not only proliferated but also produced interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) and IL-5 following in vitro stimulation with tetanus toxoid (TT) or hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg). These antigen-specific T cells could only be demonstrated when cognate antigen was administered together with or immediately following the PBL transfer. Without an early rechallenge with antigen in vivo, no TT- or HBsAg-specific T cell responses could be elicited, showing the vulnerability and antigen-dependence of the T cell response. Vigorous anti-TT or anti-HBs responses could be observed in all chimeras. Administration of antigen together with the PBL graft enhanced the humoral anti-TT response in SCID and NOD/SCID mice but had little effect on the anti-HBs antibody response in NOD/SCID mice. These data confirm the observation that the B cell compartment in hu-PBL-SCID chimera is largely antigen-independent and extend this to SCID/NOD.