The autologous mixed lymphocyte reaction (auto-MLR) measures the ability of non-T cells to stimulate autologous T cells to proliferate in tissue culture. The auto-MLR was studied in 11 patients with autoimmune thrombocytopenic purpura (ATP). Seven patients had decreased auto-MLR, which averaged 4440 +/- 3364 cpm (SEM) compared to 15,360 +/- 6905 cpm for simultaneously studied controls. The average of the ratios of cpm incorporated by patients/cpm incorporated by control subjects was 0.20 +/- 0.06 (p less than 0.01). Serum from all 7 patients with low auto-MLR decreased the auto-MLR of normal subjects by an average of 56% +/- 8.5 (p less than 0.001). Preliminary results indicate that the inhibitory effect was mediated by a component of the IgG immunoglobulin fraction of serum. Sera from normal persons and from ATP patients with normal or high auto-MLR did not affect the auto-MLR of normal subjects. It was further shown that non-T cells from 3 of 5 patients with decreased auto-MLR failed to stimulate allogeneic T cells normally. It is concluded that many patients with ATP have decreased auto-MLR apparently due to the presence of a serum blocking factor and, perhaps, a defective stimulatory capacity of non-T-cells.