Our previous studies in mice showed that the nonmyeloablative conditioning regimen of fractionated irradiation of the lymphoid tissues (total lymphoid irradiation; TLI) and depletive anti-T-cell antibodies (anti-thymocyte serum) markedly increased the percentage of regulatory DX5+ and natural killer 1.1+ T cells in the mouse spleen, and prevented acute lethal graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) in BALB/c mice (H-2(d)) following the transplantation of bone marrow (BM) and peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) from C57BL/6 (H-2(b)) donors. The object of the current study was to determine whether the TLI and anti-thymocyte serum regimen protected natural killer T-cell deficient CD1(-/-) BALB/c mice against GVHD after BM and PBMC transplantation from C57BL/6 donors, and whether a similar conditioning regimen of TLI and anti-thymocyte globulin (ATG) can prevent GVHD in Lewis rat (RT1(l)) hosts after BM and PBMC transplantation from ACI rat (RT1(a)) donors. The experimental results in mice showed that, although wild-type BALB/c hosts are protected in association with a marked increase in CD1- reactive T cells expressing the invariant TCR identified with a CD1 tetramer reagent; CD1(-/-) BALB/c hosts are not. Studies of chimeric donor cells in mice protected from GVHD showed donor T-cell polarization to a Th2 cytokine pattern. Results in rats showed that approximately 1000 fold more donor PBMC cells were required to induce a similar incidence of lethal GVHD in TLI and ATG conditioned hosts as compared with hosts conditioned with single-dose total-body irradiation or total-body irradiation and ATG. Surviving TLI and ATG conditioned rat hosts were complete chimeras. In conclusion, the TLI and ATG/anti-thymocyte serum conditioning regimen protects against GVHD in rats and mice, and regulatory natural killer T cells are required for protection.