We have applied two-color fluorescence cytofluorometric techniques to the analysis of the distribution of T44 and CD3 antigens in peripheral blood human lymphocytes. While most CD3+ cells co-expressed T44 antigen, a small distinct subset was CD3+ T44- (2-10% of CD3+ cells). This cell subset also did not react with the WT31 monoclonal antibody (mAb), specific for an alpha/beta framework determinant of the T cell receptor (TCR). Lack of T44 antigen expression was also observed in purified CD3+ WT31- polyclonal populations that had been cultured in medium containing interleukin 2 (IL2) and as well as greater than 30 clones expressing the CD3+4-8-WT31- surface phenotype. Immunoprecipitation experiments confirmed that expression of T44 molecules was confined to CD3+ WT31+ peripheral blood T cells. While conventional CD3+ WT31+ cells produced IL2 in response to mAb directed to CD2, CD3 or T44 surface molecules, CD3+ WT31- cells did not respond to anti-T44 mAb but released IL2 following stimulation with anti-CD2 or anti-CD3 mAb. Therefore, assuming that anti-T44 mimicks the effect of a still undefined natural ligand our data suggest that T cells expressing the gamma-gene surface product may be signalled by stimuli which differ, at least in part, from those acting on CD3+ WT31+ T lymphocytes.