The antigen receptor on T cells (TCR) has been predicted to have a structure similar to a membrane-anchored form of an immunoglobulin F(ab) fragment. Virtually all of the conserved amino acids that are important for inter- and intramolecular interactions in the VH-VL pair are also conserved in the TCR V alpha and V beta chains. A molecular model of the TCR has been constructed by homology and we have used the information from this, as well as the earlier structural predictions of others, to study the basis for specificity. Specifically, regions of a TCR cloned from an antigen-specific T cell were stitched into the corresponding framework of a second TCR. Results indicate that the substitution of amino acid sequences corresponding to the complementarity determining regions (CDRs) of immunoglobulin can convey the specificity for antigen and major histocompatibility complex molecules. These data are consistent with a role, but not an exclusive role, for CDR3 in antigen peptide recognition.