Tolerance to IE molecules leads to deletion of V beta 17a-bearing T cells. Both, the CD4+ as well as the CD8+ T cell subsets are affected. A large percentage of CD4+ V beta 17a+ T cell hybrids recognize IE molecules. We now have investigated the reactivity for IE antigens of CD8+ V beta 17a+ T cell hybrids. Using a transfection approach, we have introduced the murine CD8 molecule into different V beta 17a+ T cell hybrids. Furthermore, the CD8 cDNA was transfected into the BW5147 alpha-beta- fusion partner. This allowed us to generate a large number of V beta 17a+ T cell hybrids by fusion with the appropriate T cells. Only 6% of T cell hybrids were stimulated to produce IL-2 upon incubation with IE+ cells. However, in those, the CD8 molecule seemed not to contribute to the IE reactivity of the hybrid, since mAbs against the CD8 molecule failed to inhibit their reactivity. This low percentage of V beta 17a+ CD8+ IE-reactive T cell hybrids contrasts with the strong reduction of CD8+ V beta 17a+ T cells in IE+ mice, strongly suggesting that elimination of such cells in the thymus occurs when they are coexpressing CD4 and CD8. This view was confirmed by the occasional expression of CD4 in some hybrids in which case IE reactivity was detected. Furthermore, we demonstrated the functional integrity of the introduced CD8 molecule by: (a) reconstitution of the IL-2 response in a class I-restricted TNP-specific T cell hybrid; and (b) by generation of alloreactive class I-restricted T cell hybrids using the new CD8+ fusion cell line. This CD8+ fusion partner, BWLyt2- 4, should prove useful to study antigen processing and antigen presentation requirements of class I-restricted T cells.