We have examined the ability of two purified peptide fragments derived from hen (chicken) egg-white lysozyme (HEL); N-terminal, Co-terminal peptide (a.a. 1--17:cys 6--cys 127:120--129) and mixed disulfide LII peptide (LII) (a.a. 13--105) to induce antigen-specific suppression or help in B10 (H-2b) nonresponder and B10.A (H-2a) responder mice. An anti-HEL primary in vitro antibody response can be obtained in either strain by stimulation with HEL coupled to erythrocytes (RBC). Preimmunization with HEL-complete Freund's adjuvant-(CFA) or N-C-CFA-induced suppression of the anti-HEL PFC response to HEL-RBC in spleen cell cultures from B10 mice, whereas helper activity was demonstrated in cultures from B10.A mice similarly immunized. LII-CFA priming elicited helper cells in both C57BL/10 Sn (B10) and B10.A/SgSn (B10.A) mice. The genetic nonresponsiveness of B10 mice to HEL can therefore be attributed to the activation of suppressor T cells by a limited portion of the molecule (e.g., N-C) which prevent the potential response directed against other epitopes on the same molecule (e.g., LII). One manifestation of major histocompatibility complex gene activity appears to be the intramolecular selection of different antigenic determinants leading to activation of functionally different T-cell subpopulations.