Guanethidine sulphate 40 mg/kg intraperitoneally for 14 days induced chromatolysis and nerve cell death in the superior cervical ganglia of athymic nude (rnu/rnu) LEW/Mol rats and their euthymic (+/rnu) LEW/Mol heterozygous littermates. Histologically the sympathetic ganglia were dominated by an infiltration of small inflammatory cells. By means of monoclonal antibodies these cells were identified. The number of B-lymphocytes increased following guanethidine in both athymic and euthymic rats. The number of T-lymphocytes increased to a great extent in euthymic rats, but was virtually missing in athymic rats. The number of NK-cells and monocytes/macrophages increased in both athymic and euthymic rats. The conclusion is, that guanethidine exerts a direct effect on sympathetic ganglion cells followed by a thymus-independent immune response.