Total lymphoid irradiation has been used as an immunosuppressive regimen in autoimmune disease and organ transplantation. The rationale for its use originated from studies of patients with Hodgkin disease, in whom this radiotherapy regimen was noted to induce profound and long-lasting immune suppression and yet was well tolerated, with few long-term side effects. Total lymphoid irradiation is a unique immunosuppressive regimen that produces a selective (and long-lasting) reduction in the number and function of helper T cells and certain subsets of B cells. Conventional immunosuppressive drugs show little selectivity, and their effects are short-lived. The most important aspect of total lymphoid irradiation is the potential for achieving transplantation tolerance and permanent remissions in autoimmune disease in laboratory animals. Attempts are being made to achieve similar goals in humans given total lymphoid irradiation, so that immunosuppressive drugs can be ultimately withdrawn from transplant recipients and patients with lupus nephritis.