Development of early apoptosis and changes in lymphocyte subsets were examined in lymphoid organs of female BALB/c mice after oral administration of 15 mg/kg b.w. of nivalenol (NIV), the major type B trichothecene mycotoxin, by FACS analysis. Judging from the results of viable cell count and apoptotic cell index, NIV attacked Peyer's patches first and thymus most severely. In thymus, selective damage in CD4(+)CD8(+) cells was observed at 12 and 24 h after inoculation (HAI), following the peak of apoptosis at 9 HAI. CD4(+) cells were clearly suppressed at 3 HAI in Peyer's patches, at and after 9 HAI in mesenteric lymph nodes, and 3 to 12 HAI in spleen, respectively. CD8(+) cells were also suppressed at 24 HAI in mesenteric lymph nodes and at 12 HAI in spleen, respectively. As to changes in B cell subsets, IgG(+) cells significantly decreased from 3 to 12 HAI and all B cell subsets at 24 HAI in mesenteric lymph nodes. In spleen, IgM(+) cells were suppressed at 9 HAI. On the other hand, in Peyer's patches, following clear decrease in the numbers of pan-T and pan-B cells and viable cells at 3 HAI, all B cell subsets, especially IgA(+) cells, showed a significant increase in their numbers at 9 HAI, and the numbers of IgA(+) and IgM(+) cells remained higher values than controls thereafter. Taken together, in the course of recovery from NIV-induced prominent damage in Peyer's patches at 3 HAI, interaction of NIV with Peyer's patches might result in in vivo stimulation of interleukin production at this site and result in increased proliferation and differentiation of IgA-secreting B cells at and after 9 HAI.