Infusion of parental bone marrow cells into F1 hybrids conditioned by total lymphoid irradiation (TLI) results in chimeras with a high percentage of donor-type cells, and without clinical signs of graft-vs.-host reaction. In these chimeras, a state of tolerance has been shown to be associated with paucity of cytotoxic T lymphocyte percursors (pCTL) reactive with host-type alloantigens. To determine whether the presence of tolerizing alloantigens is essential for maintenance of unresponsiveness, lymphohematopoietic cells obtained from such tolerant chimeras were transferred into supralethally irradiated recipients of two different genotypes: in one case the adoptive recipients were syngeneic with host-type cells, and in the other they were syngeneic with donor-type cells of the original chimeras, thus providing the chimeric cells with a tolerogen-free environment. After "parking" for 4 d in syngeneic donor-type mice, the transferred cells displayed a marked increase in the frequency of pCTL directed against tolerizing alloantigens, whereas a low pCTL frequency directed against the same H-2 target cells was maintained in allogeneic tolerizing-type adoptive recipients. Multiple injections of adoptive donor-type mice with tolerizing-type cells of the original chimera reestablished a low level of cytotoxic precursors. Cytotoxic activity against unrelated alloantigens was independent of the presence of tolerogen-presenting cells in the adoptively transferred mice. Our experimental model suggests that persistence of cells bearing tolerizing alloantigens is an essential requirement for maintenance of previously established tolerance.