The functional role of gamma delta T cells (expressing the gamma delta heterodimeric T-cell receptor for antigen) in infectious diseases remains largely unknown. We have therefore attempted to define the possible role of these T cells in the immune response against the various developmental stages of malaria parasites. For this purpose, we monitored the immune response and the development of liver and blood stages of Plasmodium yoelii, a rodent malaria parasite, in immunized and nonimmunized alpha beta T-cell-deficient and gamma delta T-cell-deficient mice. Immunization of alpha beta T-cell-deficient mice with irradiated sporozoites induced an immune response that significantly inhibited the development of the parasite's liver stages. This inhibitory immune response was abolished by an antibody-mediated transient in vivo depletion of gamma delta T cells. Two gamma delta T-cell clones were derived from malaria-immunized alpha beta T-cell-deficient mice. The adoptive transfer of one of these gamma delta T-cell clones to normal mice inhibited the development of liver stages, following sporozoite inoculation. These results provide evidence for gamma delta T-cell-mediated protective immunity against parasites, in the absence of alpha beta T cells. As for the blood phase of the infection, both normal mice and gamma delta T-cell-deficient mice cleared the blood stages of the nonlethal strain of P. yoelii, while alpha beta T-cell-deficient mice failed to control the parasitemia.