To investigate the requirement for CD2 expression in activation of T lymphocytes via the CD3-Ti antigen/MHC receptor complex, we produced and characterized a series of CD2- Jurkat variants. These mutants lack detectable surface CD2 as determined by indirect immunofluorescence, immunoprecipitation analysis, and specific radiolabeled antibody binding assay, but nevertheless, expressed normal numbers of CD3-Ti receptors. As expected, the combination of anti-CD2 antibodies, termed anti-T112 and anti-T113, which are mitogenic for resting T lymphocytes, failed to stimulate activation of these variants. In contrast, triggering of their CD3-Ti components resulted in the normal set of T lymphocyte-associated activation events, including phosphoinositide turnover, elevation in intracellular free calcium, early gene-induction events, and IL-2 production. Assuming that the Jurkat cell line is representative of normal cycling human T lymphocytes, we conclude that the presence of the CD2 molecule on the plasma membrane is not in itself a requirement for an operational CD3-Ti-alpha/beta receptor.