A specific interaction between the class I major histocompatibility complex molecule Kb and thymocytes expressing the antigen receptor from the cytolytic T lymphocyte 2C enhances maturation of T cells of the CD8 lineage in transgenic mice. By analyzing transgenic mice backcrossed to Kbm mutant strains of mice, we have identified five bm mutations of the Kb antigen-encoding gene that alter the positive selection of thymocytes induced by Kb antigen. Compared with Kb, Kbm10 and Kbm1 did not induce significant maturation of 2C T-cell receptor-bearing thymocytes, and Kbm8 antigen positively selected for transgenic thymocytes only weakly. Altering residue 77 of Kb molecule from aspartic acid to serine made Kbm3 and Kbm11 allogeneic targets for the 2C antigen receptor and caused deletion of transgenic thymocytes. This deletion spared T cells that expressed low levels of CD8, a result differing from the total deletion of CD8-bearing T cells seen in mice that expressed the original target alloantigen Ld. This evidence indicates that (i) self-peptides bound to thymic major histocompatibility complex molecules can influence the positive selection of thymocytes and (ii) thymocytes with apparently weak interaction with self-major histocompatibility complex antigens can escape clonal deletion.