HK1.4 mAb was identified based on its ability to stimulate proliferation of cloned murine CTL. Within the lymphoid lineage, mAb HK1.4 bound exclusively to CTL, regardless of the expression of Lyt-2 or MHC restriction. HK1.4 mAb also bound to 40% of bone marrow cells and less than 5% of thymocytes from all mouse strains tested. Based on the tissue distribution of the determinant with which it reacted and the ability to cross-block binding of the anti-Ly-6 mAb H9/25, mAb HK1.4 appeared to react with a product of the Ly-6 locus. However, significant differences were observed between the properties of mAb HK1.4 and other, previously described anti-Ly-6 mAb. Cell proliferation and lymphokine release by cloned CTL were stimulated by culture with mAb HK1.4 alone or in the presence of non-stimulatory levels of IL-2. This proliferation and lymphokine release were not blocked by the addition of soluble anti-Lyt-2 or anti-IL-2R mAb. Activation induced by HK1.4 mAb proceeds in the absence of accessory cells, of cross-linking of the TCR, or the addition of mitogens or PMA. Stimulation of cells by anti-TCR mAb was not blocked by the addition of soluble HK1.4 mAb, and the stimulatory effects of HK1.4 and anti-TCR mAb were not additive. However, IL-2-driven proliferation of CTL clones was dramatically inhibited by the addition of HK1.4 mAb.HK1.4 mAb had no effect on Ag-specific or lectin-facilitated cytolysis. Taken together, these data indicate that mAb HK1.4 operates via an IL-2-independent pathway of activation that is also independent of the TCR.