Adjuvant arthritis (AA) in rats is an experimentally induced autoimmune disease mediated by T lymphocytes specific for Mycobacterium tuberculosis. We raised the question whether T cells carrying the gamma/delta T cell receptor (TcR), reactive or not to mycobacterial antigens, are involved in the pathogenesis of AA. For this purpose, T cells bearing the TcR alpha/beta were depleted from circulation by treatment with a monoclonal antibody against the rat TcR alpha/beta (R73). This treatment efficiently suppressed existing disease. Even more efficient was pretreatment with R73 from birth, which prevented AA induction completely. In these alpha/beta+ T cell-depleted animals an elevated level of alpha/beta- T cells (about 15% vs. 1% in normal rats) was evident, which was not significantly increased by Mycobacterium tuberculosis injection. We found no positive evidence that gamma/delta + T cells do contribute to AA induction. Moreover, treatment with an anti-TcR alpha/beta monoclonal antibody may be very efficient treatment of T cell-mediated autoimmune diseases.