The RT6 alloantigen is present on approximately 70% of peripheral T cells in the rat, but is absent from thymocytes and bone marrow lymphocytes. The results of further phenotypic analysis in the present study demonstrated that the RT6 alloantigen is expressed on approximately 45% of the helper/inducer (CD4; W3/25+) and 80% of the cytotoxic/suppressor (CD8; OX8+) peripheral T-cell subsets. Ontogenetic and thymus ablation studies indicated that the RT6+ T-cell subset is thymus-dependent and normally develops after the appearance of RT6-T cells in neonatal rats, and that the expression of RT6 is a post-thymic maturational event. Furthermore, intrathymic adoptive transfer of bone marrow cells demonstrated that RT6+ T cells are thymus-derived cells. These results show that most if not all RT6+ T cells are the progeny of RT6- T cells. However, they do not exclude the possibility that a separate lineage of RT6- T cells exists, which also has OX8+ and W3/25+ subsets. The possible developmental and functional relationships of RT6- and RT6+ T cells in the rat are discussed.