The protective roles of different lymphocyte subsets were investigated in a rat vaginal candidiasis model by adoptive transfer of vaginal lymphocytes (VL) or sorted, purified CD3(+) T cells, CD4(+) or CD8(+) T cells, or CD3(-) CD5(+) B cells from the vaginas of naïve or immune rats following three rounds of Candida albicans infection. The adoptive transfer of total VL from nonimmune animals did not alter the course of vaginal candidiasis of the recipient rats. In contrast, the animals receiving total VL or CD3(+) T cells from immune rats showed a highly significant acceleration of fungus clearance compared with animals which received nonimmune VL. The animals with vaginal CD3(-) CD5(+) B cells transferred from immune rats also had fewer Candida CFU than the controls, but fungal clearance was significantly retarded with respect to the animals administered immune T cells. Sorted, purified CD4(+) and CD8(+) vaginal T cells from immune rats were also adoptively transferred to naïve animals. Although both populations were seen to accelerate the clearance of the fungus from the vagina, CD4(+) T cells were much more effective than CD8(+) T cells. Overall, there was no difference between the antifungal effects of immune vaginal CD4(+) T cells and those achievable with the transfer of whole, immune VL. Histological observations of the vaginal tissues of rats with adoptively transferred immune T cells demonstrated a remarkable accumulation of lymphocytes in the subepithelial lamina propria and also infiltrating the mucosal epithelium. These results strongly suggest that distinct vaginal lymphocyte subsets participate in the adaptive anti-Candida immunity at the vaginal level, with the vaginal CD4(+) T cells probably playing a major role.