In this study, we examined the effects of the serovar-specific glycopeptidolipid (GPL) on the ultrastructure of purified T lymphocytes and the interleukin secretion by spleen and purified T lymphocytes. Electron microscopy indicated extensive disruption of the cytoplasmic compartment of T lymphocytes, which could result in altered function of immune cells. Despite the cellular damage as viewed by the electron microscopy, the expression of T-cell surface markers, Thy 1.2 and Lyt-2, were not affected. The data indicate that GPL is capable of inducing in-vitro interleukin (IL)-6 and IL-2 production by whole spleen or purified spleen T lymphocytes. The level of production of IL-6 and IL-2 following the exposure of the mycobacteria-infected cells to GPL was approximately the same as the uninfected control. A similar finding was also obtained with the total lipid extraction from the mycobacterium. The results suggest that the ability of the total lipid extraction, in inducing cytokine production, may be attributed to its GPL content.