Mutant mice with defined T cell deficiencies were infected with Mycobacterium bovis bacillus Calmette Guérin (BCG) and the relative contribution of alpha/beta T cells and gamma/delta T cells to the host immune response was assessed. Recombinase activating gene (RAG-1)-/- mutants as well as T cell receptor (TcR) beta-/-, but not TcR-delta-/-, mutants succumbed to M. bovis BCG infection and failed to develop granulomatous lesions. Antigen-induced IFN-gamma production by spleen cells in vitro was abrogated in RAG-1-/- mutants and markedly diminished in TcR-beta-/- and TcR-delta-/- mice. Reconstitution experiments suggest that both alpha/beta and gamma/delta T cells are essential for antigen-specific IFN-gamma secretion. Our data formally prove the crucial role of alpha/beta T cells and reveal accessory functions of gamma/delta T cells in optimum immunity against M. bovis BCG.