Ligand specificity of a murine gammadelta T-cell receptor-expressing hybridoma (KN6) derived from adult thymocytes has been analyzed in detail. The molecule recognized by the KN6 gammadelta T-cell receptor is expressed on syngeneic cells of various sources (peritoneal macrophages, thymocytes, spleen cells, and Abelson murine leukemia virus-transformed cell lines) and on transformed cells arrested at an early stage of development (e.g., PCC3 embryonal carcinoma cells). Linkage of the gene coding for the KN6 ligand to the major histocompatibility complex genes could be demonstrated by testing KN6 hybridoma reactivity to cells from congenic strains that differ only at H-2. In addition, analysis of recombinant strains indicates that the gene controlling the KN6 ligand is located in or distal to the TL region. Involvement of the KN6 gammadelta T-cell receptor in this recognition process could be directly demonstrated by transferring the KN6 TL specificity after introduction of the productively rearranged KN6 gamma and delta genes into an alphabeta T-cell clone or into the germ line in transgenic mice. These observations raise the possibility that at least some gammadelta cells regulate hemopoietic cell maturation and activation.