The murine epidermis is a heterogeneous epithelium composed of keratinocytes, melanocytes, Langerhans cells, and a recently described subpopulation (2-3%) of bone-marrow-derived leukocytes with a dendritic morphology and the cell surface phenotype Thy-1+, L3T4-, Lyt-2-. Previous studies have demonstrated that cell lines derived from freshly explanted Thy-1+ dendritic epidermal cells (DEC) have abundant mRNA for rearranged T-cell receptor (TCR) gamma-chain genes. Analysis of Thy-1+ DEC in situ, freshly isolated cell suspensions of Thy-1+ DEC, and long-term Thy-1+ DEC lines demonstrated that 100% of the Thy-1+ DEC reacted with a monoclonal antibody to the epsilon chain of the murine T3 complex and that 40-60% of resident Thy-1+ DEC were also reactive with an antiserum to the TCR gamma chain. Two Thy-1+ DEC lines expressed a disulfide-linked 70-kDa molecule that could be precipitated with an anti-gamma-chain antiserum and could be coprecipitated with an antiserum to the T3 delta chain; the molecule appeared as a single 34-kDa band under reducing conditions. The phenotype of Thy-1+ DEC (T3+, L3T4-, Lyt-2-, TCR gamma chain+) thus resembles that of the recently described subpopulation of murine and human lymphocytes that have been identified in the thymus, peripheral blood, and fetal blood.