The O97 mouse mAb was used to define, together with the CAMPATH-1 mAb series, the CDw52 in the course of the Fourth International Workshop on Human Leucocyte Differentiation Antigens. O97 and CAMPATH-1M produce full competitive inhibition and react with an epitope dependent on O-linked sugar residues. The two mAb, however, display significant differences in reactivity with leukocyte populations--in fact the reactivity of O97, which also exerts a powerful cytotoxic effect with human C', is similar to mAb from the CAM-PATH-1 series having the broadest one. Noteworthy, O97 spares PBL, NK, and LAK precursors, permitting an easy purification of these cells; O97 is able to kill long-term colony-forming cells in bone marrow culture and characteristically reacts, in contrast to CAMPATH-1M, with erythrocytes. Western blotting has revealed a strikingly different molecular size on red cells, since CDw52 mAb revealed a broad band ranging from 6-16 kDa, instead of the 21-28 kDa revealed from leukocyte extracts. In agreement with immunofluorescence data, O97 revealed abundant material from red cells in Western blotting, while reactivity of CAMPATH-1M was very faint. Overall, these results show that distinct molecular forms of the CDw52 molecules are present on different blood cells. We have also characterized an activation signal that can be delivered to T cells via the CDw52 molecule by CAMPATH-1M but not by O97. This is an accessory signal that can complement a primary activation signal delivered via the CD2 pathway but not via the CD3-TcR pathway. This is similar to the effects obtained with the CD45R (2H4) mAb, 2H4 and CAMPATH-1M mAb having additive effects on T cell activation via CD2.