The 53-6.7 monoclonal antibody specifically binds to the 38 kDa α and 34 kDa α' chains of the CD8 differentiation antigen (Ly-2 or Lyt-2) of all mouse strains tested. The CD8 α and α' chains (CD8a) form heterodimers with the CD8 β chain (CD8b, Ly-3, or Lyt-3) on the surface of most thymocytes. A subpopulation of mature T lymphocytes (i.e., MHC class I-restricted T cells, including most T suppressor/cytotoxic cells) expresses almost exclusively the CD8 αβ heterodimer. Subsets of γδ TCR-bearing T cells, intestinal intrapithelial lymphocytes, and dendritic cells express CD8a without CD8b. It has been suggested that the expression of the CD8a/CD8b heterodimer is restricted to T lymphocytes which matured in the thymus or in an extrathymic environment that had been influenced by thymus-initiated neuroendocrine signals. CD8 is an antigen coreceptor on the T-cell surface which interacts with MHC class I molecules on antigen-presenting cells or epithelial cells. It participates in T-cell activation through its association with the T-cell receptor complex and protein tyrosine kinase lck (p56 [lck]). The CD8 α and α' chains arise from alternatively spliced messengers of a single CD8a gene. The longer α form associates with p56 [lck] via a CXCP motif in its cytoplasmic domain, which it shares with CD4, but not with CD8b. The truncated α' chain is unable to associate with p56 [lck], and it may function to attenuate the CD8-mediated costimulatory signal during intrathymic T-cell maturation. In vivo and in vitro treatment with 53-6.7 mAb has reportedly been effective at depleting CD8+ peripheral T lymphocytes. The 53-6.7 antibody has also been reported to cross-react with CD8 α- and α'-like polypeptides on subsets of thymic and peripheral lymphocytes in the Egyptian toad, Bufo regularis.