To study T cell tolerance, transgenic mice were generated that expressed the Mlsa-reactive T cell receptor (TCR) beta chain V beta 8.1 (cDNA) under the control of the H-2Kb promoter/immunoglobulin heavy chain enhancer on approximately 90% of peripheral T cells. In transgenic mice bearing Mlsa, thymocytes expressing the TCR at a high density were deleted and the percentage of Thy 1.2+ lymph node cells was reduced. The CD4/CD8 ratio of mature T cells was reversed in Mlsa and Mlsb transgenic mice independent of the H-2. RNA analysis and immunofluorescence with TCR V beta-specific antibodies revealed that expression of endogenous TCR beta genes was suppressed. Both Mlsa and Mlsb TCR beta chain transgenic mice mounted a T-cell-dependent IgG response against viral antigens, whereas the capacity to generate alloreactive and virus-specific cytotoxic T cells was impaired in TCR beta chain transgenic Mlsa, but not in transgenic Mlsb mice.