As compared with the vigorous T cell response normally observed against allogeneic MHC molecules, T cells recognize xenogeneic MHC molecules poorly. To define structural features of the MHC molecule important for such species-specific recognition, HLA-A2(A2)-specific murine CTL were examined for their recognition of transfected cell lines expressing the class I molecules A2 or A2/H-2Kb(A2/Kb). A2/Kb is a chimeric molecule consisting of the alpha 1 and alpha 2 domains of A2 and the alpha 3, transmembrane, and cytoplasmic regions of Kb. The majority of CTL clones showed enhanced recognition of transfected cell lines expressing this chimeric molecule. Enhanced recognition was shown to correlate with sensitivity of the CTL clones to inhibition by anti-CD8 antibody. These results suggested that CD8 may interact with class I in a species-specific manner, and that suboptimal CD8 interaction with the alpha 3 domain of xenogeneic molecules may be an important contribution to poor xenoreactivity. This conclusion was supported by the capacity of A2/Kb, but not A2 human cell transfectants, to induce a primary in vitro CTL xenoresponse specific for A2.