A detailed analysis of cell-mediated and antibody-mediated immunity was performed in 20 CDC-defined patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and 20 age- and sex-matched healthy controls. CD3+, CD4+, CD8+, and CD20+ lymphocytes were comparable in two groups. Natural killer cells as defined by CD16, CD56 and CD57 antigens were significantly reduced in CFS. A significant increase in the proportions of CD4+ ICAM 1+ T cells was observed in CFS. Monocytes from CFS displayed increased density (as determined by mean fluorescence channel numbers) of intercellular adhesion molecule 1 (ICAM-1) and lymphocyte function associated antigen 1 (LFA-1), but showed decreased enhancing response to recombinant interferon-gamma in vitro. The lymphocyte DNA synthesis in response to phytohaemoglobulin (PHA), Concanavalin A (Con A) and pokeweed mitogen (PWM) was normal but the response to soluble antigens was significantly reduced. Serum IgM, IgG, IgA, and IgG subclasses were normal. In vivo specific antibody response to pneumococcus vaccine was depressed in CFS. Forty percent of patients showed titres of anti-human herpes virus 6 (anti-HHV-6) antibody higher than that in the controls (greater than or equal to 1/80). These data suggest immunological dysfunction in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome. The significance of these observations is discussed.