Normal human colonic lymphocyte populations were isolated for both phenotypic analysis by double-label immunofluorescence and assessment for regulatory effects on Ig production by co-culture with responder cells from colonic mucosa and peripheral blood. Mean CD4:CD8 ratios for colonic intraepithelial lymphocytes (IEL) and lamina propria lymphocytes (LPL) were comparable to values obtained from tissue sections. IEL alone did not produce Ig in vitro and were without effect on Ig production when co-cultured with LPL. However, T-enriched LPL had a marked helper effect for T-depleted LPL. Maximal help was for IgA production, increasing with numbers of T-enriched cells. In colonic LPL T-depleted and T-enriched co-cultures, pokeweed mitogen (PWM) had no significant effect. By contrast, in co-cultures of T-enriched and T-depleted peripheral blood mononuclear cells, Ig production was PWM-dependent. In all experiments with colonic mucosal responder cells, IgG production was low. The effects of unfractionated colonic biopsy lymphocytes on T-depleted peripheral blood mononuclear cells were additive for IgM production and synergistic for IgA synthesis, although almost no IgG was produced. Moreover, PWM had helper effects for IgM, but was suppressive for IgA production. These data suggest that colonic mucosal regulatory cells reside in the lamina propria, and predominantly provide help for IgA and IgM synthesis. The data further suggest the existence of a pre-stimulated IgA-specific T helper cell population.