A new human T cell surface antigen, Leu-5, has been defined using a set of monoclonal antibodies that block rosette formation between T lymphocytes and sheep erythrocytes (SRBC). Four antibodies obtained from 2 different fusions using 2 immunized mouse strains all reacted with the same antigen. All these antibodies gave identical quantitative immunofluorescence (FACS) profiles, all gave the same staining profiles and intensities when used singly or in combinations, and all precipitated the same molecule. The antigen is a single polypeptide chain, 40,000 to 50,000 Mr, and is found on all thymocytes, peripheral T cells, and some null cells, but not on B cells. Leu-5 is a differentiation antigen that decreases in density as thymocytes mature to peripheral T lymphocytes. Thus, the Leu-5+ subpopulations ranked in order of decreasing Leu-5 density are: a subpopulation of subcapsular thymocytes greater than cortical and medullary thymocytes greater than peripheral T cells (cytotoxic/suppressor subset) greater than peripheral T cells (helper/inducer subset). The density distribution pattern of Leu-5 parallels the relative affinity of thymocytes and peripheral T lymphocytes for SRBC. We suggest that Leu-5 is either identical to or closely associated with the human T lymphocyte receptor for SRBC.