Monoclonal antibodies to CD3 have been shown to activate T cells in vivo and in vitro but have also been shown to render T cells anergic in vitro. In this study G4.18, a mouse IgG3 mAb, was produced that appeared to recognize CD3 by its binding to all peripheral T cells, including a population not recognized by mAb to TCR-alpha/beta that was presumed to be TCR-gamma/delta cells. It precipitated molecules in the 24-26 kd region consistent with the CD3 complex as well as molecules approximately 45 and approximately 49 kd that corresponded to TCR alpha and beta chains and a 92-kd complex. Incubating T cells for 24 hr with saturating concentrations of G4.18 caused modulation of the TCR complex. In vitro, it activated T cells but only if prebound to plastic. In solution it inhibited MLC and CML, but not PHA or Con A activation. In vivo, G4.18 was not toxic even in high doses, and this was thought to be due to the inability of this mAb to activate T cells in vitro because the rat lacks Fc receptors for mouse IgG3. Therapy with G4.18 resulted in transient modulation of TCR/CD3 on T cells and depletion of these cells from blood. G4.18 had no depleting effects by lymph node or spleen cells but caused marked, transient thymic involution. Therapy with G4.18 also induced indefinite survival (> 100 days) of PVG (RTIc) heart grafts but not skin grafts in DA (RTIa) hosts. These hosts with long-surviving cardiac transplants, when grafted from PVG skin, accepted these grafts but rejected third-party skin in first-set. Thus G4.18 was shown to induce long-term specific tolerance to an organ allograft.