Résumé : Preliminary studies on the long-term effects of prenatal and early postnatal irradiation on the immune response to arsonate were performed using A/J mice. Pregnant mice were irradiated (0·5 Gy, X-rays) or sham-irradiated on a single occasion during gestation (between day 5 and 18 post-conception). Alternatively, newborn mice received the same treatment between day 2 and 7 after birth. Mice were immunized with keyhole limpet haemocyanin-arsonate (KLH-Ars) in adjuvant from 2 months after birth. The levels of specific antibodies to arsonate (anti-Ars) were measured by radioimmunoassay. In addition, the Ars-related cross-reactive idiotype (CRIA) was measured by the haemagglutination technique. In the primary response the titre of anti-Ars was reduced in animals that had been irradiated between day 12 and 15 of gestation. In the second response, in contrast, they had increased levels of anti-Ars. After immunization with KLH-Ars, high levels of CRIA were observed in all groups. However, in mice irradiated 18-20 days after conception the level of CRIA was often much higher than the level of anti-Ars, indicating that a large proportion of the CRIA-positive molecules were not specific for Ars. Thus, in this particular case, some specificity of the immune response was lost after irradiation. The expression of recurrent idiotypes may be a sensitive indicator of immunological perturbations after irradiation. © 1988 Informa UK Ltd All rights reserved: reproduction in whole or part not permitted.