T cell hybridomas were established by fusing a CD8+ V beta 8.1+ CTL clone and a CD4+ V beta 8.1+ helper T lymphocyte (HTL) clone to the thymoma cell line BW5147. In contrast to the HTL x BW hybridomas, which retain the same antigen specificity as the original T cell clone, the CTL x BW hybridomas lost the class I MHC-restricted antigen response but acquired a new specificity to Mlsa antigen. Mlsa reactivity of CTL x BW hybridomas was shown to be mediated by the CTL TCR as assayed by inhibition using an anticlonotypic antibody to the CTL clone. Since hybridomas established with BW5147 lose CD8 expression, we have introduced the CD8 molecule into CTL x BW5147 hybridomas by gene transfection. The CD8+ V beta 8.1+ hybridoma was no longer capable of reacting to Mlsa antigen but exhibited the same antigen specificity as the parental CTL clone. Furthermore, the presence of the transfected CD8 molecule in the HTL x BW hybridomas was found to be inhibitory to class II MHC-restricted antigen reactivity. These results demonstrate that, besides its role in increasing the overall avidity of T cell-class I MHC/antigen interaction, the CD8 molecule inhibits T cell-class II MHC gene product/antigen interaction. This negative effect of the CD8 molecule on a class II MHC-restricted response may account for the failure of CD8+ T cells using either V beta 8.1 or V beta 6, which impart reactivity to the Mlsa antigen on CD4+ T cells, to respond to the Mlsa antigen.