A murine monoclonal antibody, designated 8H3, recognizes a cell surface antigen expressed exclusively on rat T lineage cells. 8H3 antibody immunoprecipitated 180-, 120-, and 90-kD components from rat thymocytes as well as splenic T cells under nonreducing conditions. 8H3 antibody specifically inhibited the binding of thymocytes to fibronectin. Furthermore, binding of rat thymocytes to immobilized synthetic peptide Gly-Arg-Gly-Asp-Ser-Pro-Cys-BSA was inhibited by 8H3 antibody as was Gly-Arg-Gly-Asp-Ser-Pro-Cys, but not by Gly-Arg-Ala-Asp-Ser-Pro-Lys or Gly-Arg-Gly-Glu-Ser-Pro. Crosslinking of 8H3 antigen on double-negative thymocytes and adult thymocytes, as well as splenic T lymphocytes by 8H3 antibody and F(ab')2 fragments of goat antibodies to mouse immunoglobulin, led to an increase in the concentration of cytoplasmic free Ca2+ due to the release of Ca2+ from intracellular stores as well as the influx of Ca2+ from extracellular sources. Expression of interleukin 2 receptor and subsequently cell proliferation was observed upon incubation of thymocytes and splenic T cells with 8H3 antibody. Furthermore, 8H3 antibody induced the proliferation of double-negative thymocytes. These data collectively indicated that a cell surface antigen, 8H3, is involved in not only cell adhesion but also involved in the expression of immature as well as mature thymocytes.