The process of T cell recognition involves a complex set of interactions between the various components of the TCR/MHC/peptide trimolecular complex. We have developed a system for exploring the specific binding interactions contributed by the constituent subunits of TCR complexes for components of their ligands. We utilized an M13 phage display system, designed for multivalent receptor display, to explore specific binding interactions between various TCR alpha chains and specific antigen in the absence of MHC. The multivalent TCR-phage display system was sensitive enough to reveal some TCR alpha chains capable of binding directly to antigen with the same fine specificity shown by the MHC-restricted T cells from which the alpha chains were derived. Cross-specificity analysis using two antigen-binding TCR alpha chains derived from T cells with different polypeptide antigen specificities confirmed the fidelity of this binding. In mixtures of antigen-binding and non-binding TCR alpha-displaying phage, specific selection was achieved at a starting frequency of 1/1000, suggesting that this system can be employed for selection and analysis of TCR-displaying phage libraries. While the binding specificities exhibited by these TCRs are unusual, they provide a novel perspective from which to study the specific binding interactions that constitute TCR antigen binding.