The aim of the study was to compare the phenotype of lymphocyte subpopulations of the GALT (gut-associated lymphatic tissue) in germfree (GF) and conventionally (CV) reared rats,i.e. to analyze the effect of microbial colonization on the development of intestinal lymphocyte subsets. Surface marker characteristics were studied in cell suspensions isolated from Peyer’s patches, mesenteric lymph nodes, spleen and the intraepithelial lymphocyte compartment of 2- and 12-month old inbred AVN rats. The pattern of T lymphocyte phenotypes in Peyer’s patches, mesenteric lymph nodes and spleen determined by FACS analysis did not reveal differences between GF and CV rats. In contrast, a 2-month conventionalization of GF rats led to substantial changes in the composition of intestinal intraepithelial lymphocyte subsets (IELs): increase of CD4+, CD8α+, CD8β+, TcR α/β+ bearing lymphocytes was observed after colonization of rats with normal microflora. Surprisingly, the relative numbers of lymphocytes bearing TcR γ/δ+ did not change during conventionalization. The effect of aging was also studied and differences in IELs composition of aged (GF) and (CV) rats were found to be more pronounced: 6,6% and 30% of lymphocytes bearing TcR α/β were present among IELs in two-month old GF and CV rats, respectively. 30% of IELs in 2-month old GF rats, 80% of IEL from 12-month old CV rats were found to bear TcR α/β. This finding demonstrates that during conventionalization and aging the TcR α/β bearing population of IELs substantially expands. It suggests that mainly this lymphocyte subset responds to microflora stimuli and is probably involved in the protection of the epithelial cell layer of intestinal mucosa.