In 22 patients with malignancies, treated with high-dose chemoradiotherapy and autologous bone marrow transplantation (BMT), peripheral blood T cell subsets and functions were studied. In ten cytomegalovirus (CMV)-negative patients, CD4+ and CD8+ T cells (representing T cells of the helper/inducer phenotype and T cells of the suppressor/cytotoxic phenotype, respectively), recovered slowly and simultaneously. In 12 CMV-positive patients, however, CD8+ T cells recovered more rapidly than CD4+ T cells and rose to increased counts. No T cells with an immature phenotype (CD1+, OKT6+) were observed. Lymphocyte stimulation by herpes simplex virus infected fibroblasts (and by CMV-infected fibroblasts in CMV-positive patients) in contrast remained high and even increased after BMT in both groups. These data indicate that T cell recovery after autologous BMT is mainly due to proliferation of mature T cells present in the BM graft and not to generation of new T cells from T cell precursors.