In the present study we have investigated if transfer of serum from rats fed ovalbumin (OVA) leads to specific tolerance and bystander suppression in recipient animals. Rats that received serum from OVA-fed donors had a lower delayed-type hypersensitivity reaction (DTH) both against OVA and the bystander antigen, human serum albumin (HSA), compared with recipients given serum from control-fed animals. The in vitro proliferation of OVA- and HSA-stimulated spleen cells and the serum immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibody levels against OVA and HSA were also lower in the animals that received serum from OVA-fed animals compared with the controls. There was no reduction of the immune response to HSA if the recipient animals, given serum from OVA-fed donors were immunized with OVA and HSA at separate sites. Depletion of CD25-positive cells from spleen suspensions from rats receiving serum from OVA-fed animals, resulted in a significant increase in proliferation of OVA-stimulated cells in vitro compared with the controls. Tolerogenic activity could be demonstrated, both in a fraction from serum containing structures smaller than 100 000 MW and a fraction with components larger than 100 000 MW, compared with size-related serum fractions obtained from control-fed animals. This implies that the tolerogenic activity could be mediated by more than one serum component. The tolerogenic activity was most prominent in animals receiving the larger size fraction with a more pronounced suppression of the DTH reaction and lower levels of IgG anti-OVA antibodies in serum compared with controls. A novel finding in the present study was that the transfer of serum, collected from rats fed OVA, led to a reduction of the immune response to a bystander antigen in the recipients. This suggests that the induced tolerance is at least partly due to suppression. The suppression could have been mediated by CD25-positive cells since removal of these cells resulted in an increased in vitro proliferation against OVA.