We have examined the in situ expression of T cell receptor (TCR) V beta 8 protein in murine thymus during ontogeny using the monoclonal antibody F23.1. Positive cells were first detected at day 15 of gestation (0.6%). By day 16 the frequency of positive cells increased dramatically (4.18%). From day 16 to day 17 positive cells doubled (8.17%). The first clusters of F23.1 positive cells were seen at day 17. In the cortex, positive cells decreased from 14% in the newborn mice to 9.8% in 8-week-old mice, whereas in the medulla the frequency remained unchanged at 20%. The antibody F23.1, as well as an antiserum raised against the constant region of the beta chain, immunoprecipitated receptor dimers from highly purified Lyt2+, L3T4+ thymocytes and from two thymic lymphomas of cortical phenotype which express full size alpha and beta mRNA. The receptor dimer could not be precipitated from Lyt2-, L3T4- thymocytes. The results are discussed with regard to intrathymic T cell repertoire selection.