Although several lines of evidence suggest that cellular immune mechanisms play a role in controlling infection due to Treponema pallidum, recent studies have shown that induction of acquired cellular resistance by antigenically unrelated organisms fails to protect rabbits against syphilitic infection, thereby casting doubt on this hypothesis. In the present paper we describe attempts to transfer immunity to syphilis by using spleen cells from chancre-immune rabbits. Intravenous infusion of 2 X 10(8) spleen lymphocytes was capable of transferring acquired cellular resistance to Listeria and delayed hypersensitivity to tuberculin. However, in eight separate experiments using outbred or inbred rabbits, 2 X 10(8) spleen cells from syphilis-immune animals failed to confer resistance to T. pallidum whether by intravenous or intradermal challenge. Mixing immune lymphocytes with treponemes immediately before intradermal inoculation also failed to confer resistance. Despite the fact that syphilitic infection stimulates cellular immune mechanisms and induces acquired cellular resistance to antigenically unrelated organisms, cellular immunity may not play an important role in immunity to syphilis.