Supernatants of peripheral blood mononuclear cells from healthy human donors stimulated with recall antigen (purified protein derivative of tuberculin) or lectin (phytohaemagglutinin) markedly inhibited the insulin release from isolated human and rat islets of Langerhans, and decreased rat islet contents of insulin and glucagon in a dose-dependent manner. A maximal effect on islet function was obtained with supernatant concentrations down to 5%. Supernatants of mononuclear cells stimulated with tuberculin were more potent than supernatants produced by lectin stimulation. Culture medium reconstituted with tuberculin or phytohaemagglutinin did not impair islet function. Electron microscopy demonstrated that supernatants were cytotoxic to islet cells. The cytotoxic mononuclear cell mediator(s) was non-dialysable, sensitive to heating to 56 degrees C, labile even when stored at -70 degrees C, but stable when lyophilised.