Cell-mediated and humoral immune responses of mutant diabetic db+/db+ mice were evaluated using in vivo and in vitro immunological assays. When compared to lean, nondiabetic db+/m+ or m+/m+ mice, db+/db+ mice demonstrated markedly altered in vivo immune responses characterized by a significantly diminished ability to reject allogeneic skin grafts, a markedly diminished capacity to generate cytotoxic cells after sensitization with allogeneic EL-4 lymphoma cells and a significantly enhanced plaque-forming cell response to sheep erythrocytes. In contrast, spleen cells from db+/db+ mice demonstrated only minimal alterations in in vitro responses to mitogens and allogeneic cells and no alteration in their capacity to generate an in vitro plaque-forming cell response. The spleens and thymuses of db+/db+ mice weighed significantly less than organs from db+/db+ mice. In addition, thymuses from db+/db+ mice demonstrated a marked deficiency in in vivo [125I]UdR uptake. These data suggest that the altered metabolic status of the diabetic host influences immune function in vivo possibly due to abnormal function of lymphocyte subpopulations.