The presence in the bone marrow of memory CD8 T cells is well recognized. However, it is still largely unclear how T-cell migration from the lymphoid periphery to the bone marrow is regulated. In the present report, we show that antigen-specific CD4 T cells, as well as antigen-specific CD8 T cells, localize to the bone marrow of immunized mice, and are sustained there over long periods of time. To investigate the rules governing T-cell migration to the bone marrow, we generated chimeric mice in which the lymphoid periphery contained two genetically or phenotypically distinct groups of T cells, one of which was identical to the host. We then examined whether a distinct type of T cell had an advantage over the others in the colonization of bone marrow. Our results show that whereas ICAM1 and CD18 molecules are both involved in homing to lymph nodes, neither is crucial for T-cell bone marrow colonization. We also observed that memory-phenotype CD44high T cells, but not virgin-type CD44-/low T cells, preferentially home to the bone marrow upon adoptive transfer to normal young mice, but not to thymectomized old recipients where an existing memory T-cell pool precludes their free access. Thus, T-cell colonization of the bone marrow uses distinct molecules from those implicated in lymph node homing, and is regulated both by the properties of the T cell and by the competitive efficacy of other T cells inhabiting the same, saturable niche. This implies that the homing potential of an individual lymphocyte is not merely an intrinsic property of the cell, but rather a property of the lymphoid system taken as a whole.