Thymocytes and class I major histocompatibility complex (MHC)-restricted cytotoxic T lymphocytes express predominantly heterodimeric alpha/beta CD8. By interacting with non-polymorphic regions of MHC class I molecules CD8 can mediate adhesion or by binding the same MHC molecules that interact with the T-cell antigen receptor (TCR) function as coreceptor in TCR-ligand binding and T-cell activation. Using TCR photoaffinity labelling with a soluble, monomeric photoreactive H-2Kd-peptide derivative complex, we report here that the avidity of TCR-ligand interactions on cloned cytotoxic T cells is very greatly strengthened by CD8. This is primarily explained by coordinate binding of ligand molecules by CD8 and TCR, because substitution of Asp 227 of Kd with Lys severely impaired the TCR-ligand binding on CD8+, but not CD8- cells. Kinetic studies on CD8+ and CD8- cells further showed that CD8 imposes distinct dynamics and a remarkable temperature dependence on TCR-ligand interactions. We propose that the ability of CD8 to act as coreceptor can be modulated by CD8-TCR interactions.