Positive selection in the thymus provides low-affinity T-cell receptor (TCR) engagement to support the development of potentially useful self-major histocompatibility complex class I (MHC-I)-restricted T cells. Optimal positive selection of CD8(+) T cells requires cortical thymic epithelial cells that express β5t-containing thymoproteasomes (tCPs). However, how tCPs govern positive selection is unclear. Here we show that the tCPs produce unique cleavage motifs in digested peptides and in MHC-I-associated peptides. Interestingly, MHC-I-associated peptides carrying these tCP-dependent motifs are enriched with low-affinity TCR ligands that efficiently induce the positive selection of functionally competent CD8(+) T cells in antigen-specific TCR-transgenic models. These results suggest that tCPs contribute to the positive selection of CD8(+) T cells by preferentially producing low-affinity TCR ligand peptides.