ABSTRACT: Human decidual antigen presenting cells (DAPCs) exposed to fetal cells in vitro induce generation of suppressor T cells among a population of peripheral blood lymphocytes. Human lymphocyte antigen (HLA)-class II positive antigen presenting cells were isolated from early normal human decidual tissue and from peripheral blood (PAPCs) by adhering Ficoll-Pa-que separated cell suspensions to fibronectin. In contrast to PAPCs, DAPCs pulsed with fetal antigens induced a radio-sensitive, Leu 1,2-positive T suppressor cell population. A nylon wool adherent B cell population is required during the in vitro induction of the suppressor cells. These suppressor cells impair primary mitogen and mixed lymphocyte culture (MLC) responses, generation of anti-trinitrophe-nyl (TNP) cytotoxic T lymphocytes, and antibody response of autologous and allogeneic lymphocytes. Only intact viable embryonic cells can effectively confer upon DAPCs the ability to induce T suppressor cells. The T suppressor cell induction by DAPCs primed with fetal antigens is restricted by the major histocompatibility complex. Our results show that the HLA-DR molecules are the most prominent restriction elements.