The preferential usage of certain T cell receptor (TCR) V beta genes has been well established in several major histocompatibility complex (MHC)-restricted immune responses. However, V beta usage among allogeneic responses remains unclear. Because recent findings of ours and others indicate that V beta 8 predominates in certain Ld-restricted, peptide-specific responses, we examined the V beta 8 usage in allogeneic responses to Ld. To selectively recognize the Ld molecule, cells from BALB/c-H-2dm2 (dm2), the Ld-loss mutant mouse, were stimulated in vitro or in vivo with wild-type BALB/c cells. We report here that after the intraperitoneal administration of the anti-V beta 8 monoclonal antibody (mAb) F23.1, peripheral V beta 8 T cells were depleted from dm2 mice. This in vivo depletion abrogated the ability of dm2 splenocytes to mount a primary response to Ld molecules. This abrogation was specific, since the response of V beta 8-depleted dm2 cells to Kb/Db antigens was the same as that of control nondepleted dm2 cells. Furthermore, in vivo depletion of V beta 8 cells was found to cause a dramatic prolongation of Ld-disparate skin grafts (mean survival time [MST] 22.1 +/- 2.1 vs. 10.3 +/- 1.1 d for saline-treated controls, or 10.9 +/- 1.7 d for controls treated with mAb KJ23 to V beta 17). By contrast, V beta 8 depletion had no effect on recipients grafted with haplotype-mismatched skin or single Dk-locus-disparate skin. These findings demonstrate that V beta 8+ T cells predominate in allogeneic response to Ld but not other alloantigens. The effect of V beta 8 depletion was found to be even more dramatic on recipients grafted with Ld-disparate vascularized heart transplants (MST > 100 vs. 8.6 +/- 0.5 d for controls). In total, these findings establish the efficacy of using mAb to the V beta gene family to specifically and significantly enhance the survival of allografts. The implications of detecting V beta 8 usage in both alloreactive or MHC-restricted TCR responses to the same class I molecule are discussed.