An inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) comparable to human ulcerative colitis is induced upon transfer of T cell-depleted wild-type (F1) bone marrow into syngeneic T cell-deficient (tg epsilon26) mice (F1 --> tg epsilon26). Previously we have shown that activated CD4+ T cells predominate in transplanted tg epsilon26 mice, and adoptive transfer experiments verified the potential of these cells to cause disease in immunodeficient recipient mice. Using flow cytometry for the detection of intracellular cytokine expression, we demonstrate in the present study that large numbers of CD4+ and CD8+ TCR alphabeta+ T cells from the intraepithelial region and lamina propria of the colon of diseased, but not from disease-free mice, produced interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha). Large numbers of T cells from peripheral lymphoid tissues of these animals also expressed IFN-gamma and TNF-alpha, but few expressed interleukin-4, demonstrating a strong bias towards Th1-type T cell responses in these animals. TCR gammadelta+ T cells, typically minor constituents of the inflammatory infiltrate of the colon in F1 --> tg epsilon26 mice, also expressed IFN-gamma at a high frequency upon CD3 stimulation. In light of these findings we examined the potential involvement of TCR gammadelta+ T cells by testing their ability to induce colitis in tg epsilon26 mice. We report here that tg epsilon26 mice transplanted with T cell-depleted bone marrow from TCR alpha(null) and TCR beta(null) animals developed IBD. Furthermore, disease in these mice correlated with the development of peripheral and colonic TCR gammadelta+ T cells capable of IFN-gamma production. These results suggest that IFN-gamma may be a common mediator of IBD utilized by pathogenic T cells of distinct phenotype.