T-cells have been implicated in autoimmune renal injury. To examine the role of T-cells in lupus nephritis we propagated T-cell clones from the cortical interstitium of MRL/lpr mice. All isolated kidney-infiltrating (KI) T-cell clones  express surface markers identical to the T-cells regulated by the lpr gene (Thy 1.2+, TCR alpha/beta +, Lyt-2-, L3T4-, B220+). Although KI T-cell clones have the same surface markers as lymph node-infiltrating (LNI) T-cells, they differ functionally. KI T-cells, but not LNI T-cells, are autoreactive and kidney-specific, exclusively proliferating to renal tubular epithelial (TEC) and mesangial cells. In addition, unlike LNI T-cell supernatants (SN), KI T-cell clones SN induce class II and ICAM-1 on cultured TEC. When KI T-cell clones are injected under the renal capsule, class II is increased on TEC. All clones transcribe mRNA for cytokines capable of inducing class II and ICAM-1 (IL-4, TNF-alpha, IFN-gamma). Anti-IFN-gamma mAb prevents the induction of class II and ICAM-1 on cultured TEC. Since class II and ICAM-1 expression on TEC precedes renal injury, the ability to propagate autoreactive, kidney-specific T-cell clones that induce these molecules provides evidence for their role in initiating renal injury in MRL/lpr mice.