A B cell lymphoma model of dormancy in mice was established by prior immunization to the B cell membrane immunoglobulin idiotype. The antibody to the idiotype was the major factor in inducing and maintaining dormancy and acted primarily as an agonist rather than via effector functions. CD8+ T cells synergized with anti-Id in inducing dormancy by secreting IFN-gamma. Cycling in the dormant population was reduced 3-5 fold, but each mouse contained approximately 10(6) tumor cells in its spleen, some of which were cycling, during the 1.5 years of observation. Thus, replication is balanced by cell death.