Evidence was sought on the tissue distribution of Mlsa determinants, a class of cell-associated non-H-2 alloantigens that is highly immunogenic for unprimed T cells. Whereas normal CD4+ T cells and an Mlsa-reactive T hybridoma gave strong responses to Mlsa-positive stimulator populations containing Ig+ B cells, anti-Mlsa responses to B-depleted stimulators were almost undetectable. The B-depleted stimulators tested included Thy-1- spleen cells from mu-suppressed mice (mice treated with anti-mu antibody from birth) and J11d- preparations of spleen dendritic cells (DC) and peritoneal macrophages (M phi) from normal mice. Each of these populations was strongly immunogenic for allo-H-2-reactive T cells. The failure to detect Mlsa determinants on Ig- APC, i.e., M phi and DC, suggests that Mlsa determinants are not typical H-2-associated peptides. The data are more compatible with a model in which Mlsa determinants represent (or form part of) an integral cell membrane molecule expressed largely, and perhaps exclusively, on B cells. T cells might recognize these molecules only in native form, "processed" Mlsa determinants being nonimmunogenic. Consistent with this possibility, no evidence was found that Mlsa-negative B cells could absorb Mlsa determinants from Mlsa-positive B cells in a chimeric environment.