A novel adoptive transfer system was used to track the fate of naive Salmonella-specific CD4 T cells in vivo. These cells showed signs of activation in the Peyer's patches as early as 3 hr after oral infection. The activated CD4 T cells then produced IL-2 and proliferated in the T cell areas of these tissues before migrating into the B cell-rich follicles. In contrast, Salmonella-specific CD4 T cells were not activated in the spleen and very few of these cells migrated to the liver, despite the presence of bacteria in both organs. These results show that the T cell response to pathogenic Salmonella infection is localized to the gut-associated lymphoid tissue and does not extend efficiently to the major sites of late infection.