Human umbilical cord blood (CB) is increasingly used as an alternative to bone marrow as a source of stem and progenitor cells for pediatric patients. We have evaluated the alloreactive potential of cord blood T cells in vitro. Our findings demonstrate that in a primary mixed leukocyte culture CB T cells demonstrate strong proliferative responses to allogeneic stimulation but little to no generation of cytotoxic effector function. Furthermore, restimulation of primary cultures results in a state of proliferative unresponsiveness. Such diminished cytotoxic and proliferative responses may, in part, be related to the low incidence of graft vs. host disease thus far noted in human CB transplants.