Cellular immune responses may play an important role in the early inflammatory and cellular phases of wound healing. Cyclosporine A (CSA), a new immunosuppressive agent, impairs cellular immunity and T-cell-dependent humoral immunity. Therefore, the effect of CSA-induced immunosuppression in a rat wound-healing model was studied. Sprague-Dawley rats underwent a standardized skin incision and subcutaneous implantation of sterile polyvinyl alcohol sponges. CSA was dissolved in olive oil and given by gavage to one group of animals at a total dose of 125 mg/kg/10 days. The control group received an equivalent volume of olive oil. Ten-day-old wounds were weaker in CSA-treated animals, both in the fresh state (282 +/- 19 g vs 380 +/- 27 g, P less than 0.01), and after formalin fixation (1111 +/- 74 g vs 1419 +/- 57 g, P less than 0.01). In addition, CSA-treated rats accumulated significantly less hydroxyproline in the wound sponge granuloma, an index of reparative collagen deposition. The impairment in wound healing occurred without differences in body weight gain or organ weights. There was a profound immunosuppression in the animals receiving CSA as determined by thymic lymphocyte blastogenesis in response to Con A and PHA. These findings suggest that immunosuppression in otherwise healthy animals impairs wound healing.