The FBL-3 lymphoma cell line caused impaired antibody formation in vivo when injected into mice intraperitoneally, and in vitro when added to normal syngeneic spleen cells immunized in vitro with sheep erythrocytes. Immunosuppression occurred only when intact viable tumor cells were cocultivated with the normal spleen cells. As few as 10(5) FBL-3 cells, when added to 5 X 10(6) normal cells, impaired antibody formation. However, cell-free extracts of filtrates from even much larger numbers of tumor cells did not affect antibody formation, either in vitro or in vivo. Heating the tumor cells at 56 degrees C or irradiation with as little as 1000 rads completely abolished immunosuppressive activity, both in vitro and in vivo. Separation of viable tumor cells from target antibody-forming cells by cell-impermeable membranes prevented immunosuppression, showing that direct cell-to-cell contact is required for immunosuppression.