T cells survey antigen-presenting dendritic cells (DCs) by migrating through DC networks, arresting and maintaining contact with DCs for several hours after encountering high-potency complexes of peptide and major histocompatibility complex (pMHC), leading to T cell activation. The effects of low-potency pMHC complexes on T cells in vivo, however, are unknown, as is the mechanism controlling T cell arrest. Here we evaluated T cell responses in vivo to high-, medium- and low-potency pMHC complexes and found that regardless of potency, pMHC complexes induced upregulation of CD69, anergy and retention of T cells in lymph nodes. However, only high-potency pMHC complexes expressed by DCs induced calcium-dependent T cell deceleration and calcineurin-dependent anergy. The pMHC complexes of lower potency instead induced T cell anergy by a biochemically distinct process that did not affect T cell dynamics.