Notch is a transmembrane receptor that controls cell fate decisions in Drosophila and whose role in mammalian cell fate decisions is beginning to be explored. We are investigating the role of Notch in a well-studied mammalian cell fate decision: the choice between the CD8 and CD4 T cell lineages. Here we report that expression of an activated form of Notch1 in developing T cells of the mouse leads to both an increase in CD8 lineage T cells and a decrease in CD4 lineage T cells. Expression of activated Notch permits the development of mature CD8 lineage thymocytes even in the absence of class I major histocompatability complex (MHC) proteins, ligands that are normally required for the development of these cells. However, activated Notch is not sufficient to promote CD8 cell development when both class I and class II MHC are absent. These results implicate Notch as a participant in the CD4 versus CD8 lineage decision.