Expression of a novel thymocyte differentiation antigen, JL1, defined by a monoclonal antibody (mAb) developed against human thymocytes showed a specificity for stage II double positive (CD4+CD8+) human cortical thymocytes. This antigen was not expressed at detectable levels on medullary thymocytes, mature peripheral leukocytes, bone marrow cells or on other types of tissues elsewhere in the human body. Immunohistologic analysis revealed that JL1 had a clear pattern of distribution on cortical thymocytes. Immunoprecipitation of 125I-labeled cell lysates from human thymocytes and Molt-4 leukemic cell line with anti-JL1 mAb yielded a 120-130-kD single chain glycoprotein. When immunoprecipitation of cell lysate was done after endoglycosidase F treatment, JL1 antigen was still detected by antibody but the band showed a reduction in apparent molecular mass of approximately 5 kD. This suggests that, although JL1 molecule contains carbohydrate group, this does not form a critical part of the antigenic determinant for anti-JL1 antibody. JL1 antigen appears to be the first double positive, stage-specific differentiation antigen of human thymocyte reported so far. This antigen would be a useful marker for lymphoblastic malignancy of stage II thymocyte origin and it may be involved in the thymocyte education process.