Fas is a cell surface protein that mediates apoptosis. A mouse mutant, lpr (lymphoproliferation), has a mutation in the Fas gene. In this report, we studied the expression and function of Fas in various subpopulations of mouse thymocytes. Abundant expression of Fas was detected on CD4+CD8+ double positive as well as CD4+ or CD8+ single positive thymocytes in wild-type mice. Little or low levels of Fas were expressed in CD4-CD8- double negative thymocytes except for the CD4-CD8-CD3+ phenotype, which expresses Fas as abundantly as double positive or single positive subsets. On the other hand, no Fas expression was detected in any population of thymocytes from lpr mice. When the wild-type thymocytes were treated with the agonistic anti-Fas antibody, double positive cells from the wild-type mice were selectively killed by apoptosis, whereas, the single positive cells were resistant to its cytolytic activity despite their abundant expression of Fas. Unlike the apoptosis of thymocytes induced by glucocorticoid or T cell activator, the Fas-induced apoptosis of thymocytes was enhanced by metabolic inhibitors such as cycloheximide. Furthermore, intraperitoneal administration of the anti-Fas antibody into mice caused rapid apoptosis of thymocytes in vivo.