An experimental system was developed to independently analyze the H-2 and Igh genetic restrictions at two steps of the 4-hydroxy-3-nitrophenylacetyl hapten (NP) suppressor cell pathway. This experimental system allowed genetic analysis of the activation of TS3 cells by hybridoma-derived TsF2 and independent analysis of the genetic restrictions that controlled the interaction of the TS3 cells with their target population. Thus, TS3 cells were activated in vitro with monoclonal H-2b or H-2k-derived TsF2. The activated TS3 cells were then adoptively transferred to TS3-depleted (cyclophosphamide-treated) recipients of various genotypes. When the TS3-containing lymph node population was activated in vitro for 2 h, suppressive activity was only noted in combinations of TSF2, TS3, and recipients that were matched at both the I-J and Igh gene complexes. The data indicate that TsF2 can activate TS3 cells and that both the activation and the interaction of TS3 cells are I-J and Igh restricted. Using (B10 x B10.BR)F1 mice as TS3 donors, we noted that H-2b-derived TsF2 activated these F1 TS3 cells to suppress NP-specific cutaneous sensitivity responses in H-2b but not in H-2k recipients. Reciprocal experiments using H-2k-derived TsF2 demonstrated that only an H-2k-restricted population was activated in the F1-derived TS3 cells. The simplest explanation to account for these observations is that two distinct populations, each of which is restricted to a parental I-J determinants, exists in the heterozygous F1 TS3 population. Furthermore, we demonstrated that both I-Jb and I-Jk determinants are expressed on F1-derived TS3 cells. These observations are discussed in terms of the mechanisms involved in immunoregulation.