In this study the authors show that patients with primary biliary cirrhosis (PCB) have a marked deficiency in the ability to generate an autologous mixed lymphocyte reaction (AMLR) but have a normal ability to generate an allogeneic mixed lymphocyte reaction (MLR). This deficiency is not due to differences in the time-course of the proliferative response or to an altered response to variable numbers of stimulator cells. The deficiency was consistently found irrespective of the methods used to isolate autologous stimulator cells. Both responder cells and stimulator cells obtained from patients with PBC were similar to normal cells in their ability to generate an MLR in allogeneic normal human serum. In addition, serum from patients with PBC inhibited the ability of normal lymphocytes to generate both the AMLR and MLR to a similar degree, suggesting that the defect of the AMLR in PBC is not due to serum factor. It has been shown that the responder cell population in the AMLR contains a subpopulation of cells that mediate suppression. Therefore, it is possible that the deficiency of the AMLR may be related to previously described abnormalities of suppressor function in patients with PBC.