Minor histocompatibility (H) Ags, encoded by autosomal and sex-linked genes, have classically been identified by the cytolytic T lymphocyte response to class I-bound minor H Ags. A limited number of studies have identified minor H Ags (defined by congenic strains) that stimulate Th cells. We have selected a panel of minor H Ag-specific, CD4+ Th hybrids by the fusion of a BW5147 variant with a C57BL/6 anti-BALB.B T cell line. Studied hybrids secrete IL-2 following stimulation with BALB.B spleen cells and stimulation is blocked with anti-I-Ab Ab. These Th hybrids recognize a minimum of six different Ags (helper T target (HTT)) encoded by independently segregating genes as defined by stimulator cells from 11 CXB recombinant inbred strains. The CXB strain distribution patterns of detected Ags did not match the distribution pattern of the BALB/c MTV6 viral genome indicating that none of the detected Ags were known viral superantigens. Four tested HTT Ags appeared not to be acquired by stimulators as exogenous Ags as BALB.B spleen cells but not a mixture of BALB/c spleen cells and C57BL/6 APC stimulated IL-2 production by the respective Th hybrids. To determine whether Th hybrids recognized peptides bound to I-Ab, I-Ab molecules were immunoprecipitated from the LB27.4 cell line that stimulated the A6.5.5 hybrid (HTT-4 specific). Peptides were extracted from I-Ab molecules, ultrafiltered, and separated by HPLC. A single fraction (with flanking peaks of lower activity) sensitized syngeneic APC to stimulate A6.5.5 hybrid cells; sensitization was observed at pH 5.0 but not pH 7.0, consistent with HTT-4 peptide:I-Ab binding occurring in an endosomal compartment. These observations indicate that at least one class II-restricted minor H Ag is recognized by Th cells as a peptide bound to class II molecules.