The effect of vitamin B-6 deficiency on immune response was studied in eight healthy elderly adults. The protocol consisted of a 5-d baseline (BL) period; a vitamin B-6-depletion period of less than or equal to 20 d; three stages of vitamin B-6-repletion, each lasting 21 d; and a 4-d final phase. The amounts of vitamin B-6 ingested during the different phases of the study were 3.00, 15.00, 22.50, and 33.75 micrograms.kg body wt-1.d-1, respectively. During the final phase the subjects ingested 50 mg vitamin B-6/d. Fasting blood was collected at the end of each period. Vitamin B-6 depletion significantly decreased percentage and total number of lymphocytes, mitogenic responses of peripheral blood lymphocytes to T- and B-cell mitogens, and interleukin 2 production. These indices returned to BL values after the third vitamin B-6-repletion period, when the total vitamin B-6 intakes were 1.90 +/- 0.18 mg/d for women and 2.88 +/- 0.17 mg/d for men. Vitamin B-6 deficiency impairs in vitro indices of cell-mediated immunity in healthy elderly adults. This impairment is reversible by vitamin B-6 repletion.