The optimum marrow ablative regimen for preparing recipients of bone marrow transplantation (BMT) has not been established. gamma- Irradiation, but not busulfan, produces a characteristic microvascular injury pattern which results in depressed capacity of normal lymphocytes to localize into the lymph nodes of syngeneic murine BMT recipients. Since peripheral lymph nodes are important sites for initiation and amplification of immune responses, the preparative regimen might delay recovery of regionally compartmentalized immune functions after BMT. We evaluated the effects of busulfan and gamma- irradiation on the phenotypic and functional reconstitution of helper T- cell function within the peripheral lymph nodes of BMT recipients. Both marrow ablative regimens caused a protracted delay in regeneration of peripheral lymph node CD4+ T cells. Specific helper T-cell functions, such as contact hypersensitivity and alloantigen responses, remained significantly depressed in the lymph nodes of irradiated mice for prolonged periods (up to 60 weeks). These responses recovered more rapidly in busulfan-treated BMT recipients. In contrast, the capacity of peripheral lymph node T cells to provide “help” for antigen-specific immunoglobulin production was only transiently depressed by either preparative regimen. Our experiments confirm the hypothesis that the marrow ablative regimen, particularly gamma-irradiation, may contribute to the period of immunodeficiency which follows BMT. The pattern of immune recovery observed suggests that preparative total body irradiation (TBI) may selectively depress the regional recovery of the TH1 [interleukin-2 (IL-2) and gamma-interferon (gamma-IFN) secreting] lymphocyte subset.