Using freshly isolated Ia+ gut epithelial cells we have been able to demonstrate that these cells can function as accessory cells in an immune response. The cells can act as stimulators in both autologous and allogeneic MLRs. More importantly, these cells are capable of taking up the soluble antigen, tetanus toxoid, processing it, and presenting it to tetanus-primed T cells. These functions appear to relate to the presence of surface Ia in that a hetero-anti-Ia antibody can block these effects. Noteworthy is the finding that the subpopulation of T cells stimulated when epithelial cells are used as accessory cells is the T8+, 9.3-T cell. These cells function as potent antigen-nonspecific suppressor cells in both MLR, T cell antigen responses, and induction of B cell differentiation by PWM. These findings have significant implications in local gut immune responses and may help explain several poorly characterized phenomena of mucosal immunity.