This report describes the inhibition of human mixed lymphocyte culture (MLC) reactions by rabbit antisera to intact and detergent solubilized, fractionated, human trophoblast membranes. Heat-inactivated antisera were passed through solid-phase immunoabsorption columns of normal human serum and extensively absorbed with human erythrocytes, lymphocytes and liver powder. Immunohistological experiments with these absorbed antisera showed that they reacted brilliantly with syncytiotrophoblast in cryostat sections of human but not baboon or monkey placentae, and not with other normal adult tissues including peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBL). Addition of these antisera to MLC reactions produced significant and reproducible suppression of responses without affecting cell viability. Absorption studies demonstrated complete removal of MLC inhibition and trophoblast membranes but not with PBL or suspensions of HEp-2 cells. Timed experiments showed that optimal inhibition occurred when the antisera were added between 2 and 6 h after culture initiation, and that little suppression was achieved after 18 h. Lymphocytes harvested from MLC reactions after 2 h showed that 3--5% of the cells reacted with PBL/liver-absorbed anti-trophoblast sera, and that unstimulated PBL were negative. Cultures of subhuman primate lymphocytes in the presence of heterologous antisera to human trophoblast membranes showed total inhibition of rhesus:human and human:rhesus MLC, and no suppression of baboon:human or human:baboon reactions, whereas human lymphocytes responded in an exagerated manner when stimulated by baboon cells. Modulated MLC responses to human, rhesus, or baboon lymphocytes, in the presence of anti-trophoblast sera indicate that the antisera recognize trophoblast cross-reactive lymphocytes antigens. We propose that these antigens are reaction products of cell-cell interactions, and that the nature of the antigens is determined by the specificity of the recognition signals which initiate the reaction.