The specific binding of hepatitis B (HBs) antigen by lymphocytes from old people immunized with hepatitis B vaccine was explored. For that purpose HBs antigen was combined with fluorescent microspheres, and labeled antigen was allowed to react with lymphocytes from HBs vaccine-responsive or unresponsive people. Lymphocytes from 10 responders and 14 nonresponders were tested for their antigen-binding ability. For controls, lymphocytes were incubated with microspheres bearing human albumin. Lymphocytes from 8 out of 10 responders were able to recognize HBs antigen; for the nonresponders the ratio was 9 out of 14. HBs-binding lymphocytes were B cells but not T lymphocytes. B and T cells from responders and nonresponders were combined and cultivated for 8 days in the presence of HBs antigen, and antibody-producing cells were counted. Neither B cells alone nor B cells plus T cells from nonresponders were able to produce antibody. On the other hand B cells from unresponsive old people produced antibodies when they were cultivated in the presence of HBs antigen and T cells from responsive old people. These data suggest that some elderly individuals who do not produce antibody after in vivo immunization by HBs vaccine do have antibody-producing cells. Instead of a gap in their immune repertoire, these people are suffering from immune dysfunction.