The Src-family and Syk/ZAP-70 family of protein tyrosine kinases (PTK) are required for T cell receptor (TCR) functions. We provide evidence that the Src-family PTK Lck is responsible for regulating the constitutive tyrosine phosphorylation of the TCR zeta subunit in murine thymocytes. Moreover, ligation of the TCR expressed on thymocytes from Lck-deficient mice largely failed to induce the phosphorylation of TCR-zeta, CD3 epsilon, or ZAP-70. In contrast, we find that the TCR-zeta subunit is weakly constitutively tyrosine phosphorylated in peripheral T cells isolated from Lck-null mice. These data suggest that Lck has a functional role in regulation of TCR signal transduction in thymocytes. In peripheral T cells, other Src-family PTKs such as Fyn may partially compensate for the absence of Lck.