The beneficial effects of low-dose orally administered type I interferon (LDOA IFN) have been demonstrated in various animal models of disease and in some human clinical trials. The mechanisms by which LDOA IFN therapy has its effects, however, remain to be established. In the present study, groups of mice were administered 10 IU murine IFN-alpha/beta (MuIFN-alpha/beta) orally for 7 days. Spleens were then collected and analyzed. No differences were detected between the spleen weights of treated mice compared with controls, although reductions in total splenic white blood cell (WBC) number ranging from 15.5% to 35% were observed. Further analysis showed this reduction to be largely restricted to the B cell population, with only minor reductions in CD4(+) or CD8(+) populations being detected. Dose-response studies showed the WBC loss from the spleen to be optimal at 1 IU MuIFN-alpha/beta, whereas both higher and lower doses showed less significant effects. Time course studies show these effects had developed after 2 days of treatment. It is hypothesized that this observed WBC movement from the spleen is part of the mechanism of action of LDOA IFN.