The present study examines the potential role of the T4 molecule in functional cell-cell interactions between target cells and human cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) clones that are specific for HLA class II alloantigens encoded by the SB locus. There were marked differences (greater than 30-fold) between the seven SB-specific clones studied with respect to their susceptibility to inhibition by anti-T4 as well as anti-T3 antibodies. We wished to test the hypothesis that such variation among the clones would be due to differences in clonal "affinity" for antigen. To quantitate differences among the CTL clones in the tightness with which they bind target cells, the clones were analyzed using a previously published assay of susceptibility of CTL-target cell conjugates to dissociation in the presence of unlabeled targets. The results revealed that the clones that were most susceptible to inhibition by anti-T4 and anti-T3 were the weakest target cell binders, and vice versa. Anti-T4 antibody could partially induce dissociation of functional CTL-target cell conjugates in the absence of any added cold targets. For the "highest affinity" clone such anti-T4 antibody-induced dissociation could be observed at 4 degrees C but not 23 degrees C. These results indicate that the T4 molecule is functionally involved in target cell binding by CTL, and raise the possibility that although it is easiest to demonstrate the function of the T4 molecule in "low affinity" clones, that function may also be operative in the "high affinity" clones.