Hapten-reactive inducer T cell clones can be divided into two groups based on their activation specificity. The first and largest group is conjugate specific. These clones are activated only by hapten coupled to the same carrier protein used for in vitro selection. The second group, which is quite rare, is hapten specific. Clones of this type are activated by hapten coupled to all foreign and autologus proteins tested. Both types of clones corecognize soluble antigen in association with products of the I-A locus. The hapten-specific cells were used to analyze the molecular basis of I-A vs. I-E gene control. The physiologic significance of hapten- and carrier-specific inducer T cells in the response to foreign antigens and autoantigens is discussed.