Previous work has shown that abrogation of oral tolerance is mediated by T cells which are found in the CD3+, L3T4- (CD4-), and Lyt-2- (CD8-) subset (termed double-negative; DN) in mice. Inasmuch as it is known that athymic, nude (nu/nu) mice possess Thy 1+, CD4-, and CD8- T cells which also exhibit a functionally rearranged TCR γ-chain, we investigated whether this subset of nude T cells contained functional immunoregulatory cells. In this report, we examined the phenotype and distribution of CD3+ T cells in the spleen and in the mesenteric and peripheral lymph nodes of BALB/c nu/nu mice in comparison with normal mice (+/+). In the spleens of nude mice, the predominant CD3+ T cells subpopulation was DN. Further, in mesenteric and peripheral lymph nodes, approximately one-third and one-half of the CD3+ T cells were double negative, respectively. In contrast, CD3+, DN T cells represent a small subpopulation in normal (+/+) mice. We next showed that functional regulatory T cells which possess the ability to abrogate oral tolerance were induced in nu/nu mice by Ag priming. BALB/c nude mice were immunized with SRBC, and the splenic CD3+, Vicia villosa-adherent cells were obtained by panning. Adoptive transfer of CD3+, V. villosa-adherent T cells to orally tolerant BALB/c mice restored responsiveness to SRBC, whereas V. villosa nonadherent cells were without effect. In other experiments, CD3+ T cells from the spleens of SRBC-primed mice were further enriched for the CD5+, DN phenotype and adoptive transfer of this subset completely abrogated oral tolerance to SRBC. To characterize the nature of the TCR expressed on these CD3+, DN T cells, we developed a rabbit antibody to a synthetic peptide (residues 209-218: Tyr-Ala-Asn-Ser-Phe-Asn-Asn-Glu-Lys-Leu) which was synthesized from a deduced sequence of the murine δ-gene. Immunoprecipitation of a cell membrane fraction from CD3+, DN T cells with anti-δ TCR antibody isolated a 45-kDa band. Furthermore, immunoprecipitation of these cells with anti-CD3 (145-2C11) revealed bands at 45 and 35 kDa (corresponding to δ- and γ-chains, respectively). Taken together, these results are the first to show that γδ-TCR bearing CD3+, CD4-, and CD8- T cells are functional and reverse oral tolerance when adoptively transferred.