In patients with primary immunodeficiencies the role of natural killer (NK)- and lymphokine (IL-2)-activated killer (LAK)-cells is not yet satisfactorily established. Using a clonogenic assay with K562 leukemia target cells, we studied their NK- and LAK-cell activity in vitro. Moreover, the effect of thymosin alpha 1 (T alpha 1) on LAK-cell activity was studied in 11 patients with different immunodeficiencies. The results were compared with data of healthy controls (n = 11) and cord blood samples (n = 6). Common variable immunodeficiency patients demonstrated a mean LAK-cell activity of about 65% of normal controls and cord blood samples. The moderately reduced LAK-cell activity was not affected by T alpha 1. In the immunodeficient other patients, low levels of LAK-cell activity with a mean value of 10% of normal controls were seen. The mean LAK-cell activity could be improved by T alpha 1: three patients showed an improvement of their LAK-cell activity up to 25-30% after T alpha 1 administration in vitro, but in one case T alpha 1 was without any effect. Analysis of the expression of the surface markers CD8, CD16, CD57 and CD8/CD57 revealed that only CD16 positive lymphocytes were significantly less in immunodeficient patients. We found a linear correlation between LAK-cell activity and CD8/CD57 double positive lymphocytes in all patients. Our results demonstrate that suppressed LAK-cell activity from immunodeficient patients can be individually improved by T alpha 1. Further in vivo studies should evaluate thymic peptide immunotherapy for individual immunodeficient patients.