We describe an activation Ag Me14/D12 that appears early after T cell activation and is absent in resting T lymphocytes. Me14/D12 is a nondisulfide-linked heterodimeric structure containing two polypeptide chains of 33,000 and 38,000 Da. The expression of Me14/D12 on resting T lymphocytes can be induced by different activation stimuli such as the lectins PHA and Con A, the phorbol ester PMA, and anti-CD3 mAb. The induction of mRNA for Me14/D12 (gp33-38) in PHA-activated T lymphocytes precedes that of IL-2R gene transcripts by more than 20 h. Me14/D12 mRNA was detectable as early as 2 h after the onset of activation and mRNA for the IL-2R only after 24 h. The surface expression of Me14/D12 was detectable between 12 and 24 h after activation and was maximal between 24 and 48 h. Several T leukemia cell lines express the Me14/D12 Ag. On Me14/D12- cell lines, PMA and IFN-gamma induced surface expression of Me14/D12. Once Me14/D12 Ag were expressed on Jurkat cells after stimulation with either PMA or IFN-gamma, the binding of mAb Me14/D12 induced the production of significant amounts of IL-2 and of Ca2+ mobilization from internal stores. Comparative biochemical studies clearly demonstrate that Me14/D12 (gp33-38) is different from the CD69 molecular complex defined by mAb MLR3 and AIM.