To explore a possible mechanism of pregnancy-associated suppression of T cell-mediated immunity to Toxoplasma gondii, acquired resistance and gamma interferone (IFN-gamma) production in pregnant mice were compared with those in virgin mice after infection with the S-273 strain of this protozoan parasite. The 50% lethal dose of this strain was less than 200 tachyzoites for pregnant mice and 2,800 organisms for virgin controls. Toxoplasma-induced production of both IFN-alpha and IFN-gamma in the bloodstream of pregnant mice was significantly depressed as compared with that in virgin controls. The administration of recombinant murine IFN-gamma (rMuIFN-gamma) resulted in a significant decrease of mortality and parasitic growth in the organs of pregnant mice infected with a lethal dose of S-273 strain tachyzoites. Thus, the impairment of T cell-mediated immune responses was evident in pregnant mice from the impaired IFN-gamma-generating capacity and poor survival rate after primary infection with Toxoplasma. When mice with chronic Toxoplasma infection were injected with specific antigen, the resultant production of IFN-gamma was also significantly suppressed during pregnancy. However, there was no direct correlation between the serum levels of IFN-gamma and susceptibility to reinfection, since the mortality rate of chronically infected pregnant mice after the challenge with the high virulent RH strain was not significantly higher than that of virgin controls.