The Nb2 rat lymphoma cell line has the unique property that its growth is dependent on lactogenic pituitary hormones. Cell surface staining with monoclonal antibodies showed expression of class I MHC alloantigens of the RT1u haplotype, but no expression of class II MHC antigens. Staining for differentiation markers was strongly positive with antibodies OX52, W3/13 and OX44. Partial and weaker staining was obtained with CD2, P4/16 and the transferrin receptor. Nb2 cells were negative with CD5, OX40 and CD4, whilst CD8 stained only a minor fraction (1%) and certain variant clones of the cell line. This general pattern of staining is consistent with the phenotype of a small subpopulation of immature T cells. Nb2 cells proliferated in response to recombinant human IL-2, although they did not stain with antibodies against the IL-2 receptor. Enhancement of the stimulation by IL-2 in the presence of a submitogenic concentration of hGH indicated a synergism between these two hormones, and responses were suppressed by a similar dose of cyclosporin A (ID50=2 microg/ml). Although IL-2 could not be identified in culture supernatants, the presence of mRNA for IL-2, IL-2R and IL-4 was demonstrated by dot blot analysis. Finally, evidence that the Nb2 lymphoma is of T-cell lineage was given by Northern blot detection of mRNA for the alpha and beta chains of the T-cell receptor.