We describe the use of a soluble CD81-Fc fusion protein to screen for novel monoclonal antibody (MAb) reactive with the extracellular loops of murine CD81 (TAPA-1). Two such MAbs, Eat1 and Eat2 (for Extracellular Anti-TAPA1), were used to assess the expression and function of CD81 on murine lymphocytes. Although CD81 is expressed uniformly on all human lymphocytes, murine CD81 was found to be expressed at much higher levels on resting B cells than on resting T cells. This was particularly evident when staining with the new MAbs, Eat1 and Eat2. The molecule is also functionally active on B cells, as Eat1 and Eat2 induce homotypic adhesion of B lymphocytes. Stimulated B cells undergo early apoptotic events in the presence of Eat2, as shown by binding of Annexin V-fluorescein isothiocyanate (FITC). Polyclonal activation of murine T cells also induces higher level CD81 expression, and many immortalized murine T-cell lines express high levels of the protein. In contrast to human CD81, which is expressed equally on all thymocytes, murine CD81 is induced during thymic development, being expressed at high levels on CD4+CD8+ thymocytes, in contrast to other subsets of thymocytes. Finally, murine dendritic cells, splenic macrophages, and non-killer (NK) cells all express high levels of CD81. We conclude that CD81 is differentially expressed in the murine immune system, and is involved in regulating the adhesion and activation of murine B cells.