NK1 T cells are a specialized population of alpha/beta T cells that coexpress receptors of the NK lineage and have the unique potential to very rapidly secrete large amounts of cytokines, providing early help for effector cells and regulating the Th1 or Th2 differentiation of some immune responses. NK1 T cells express a restricted TCR repertoire made of an invariant TCR alpha chain, V alpha 14-J alpha 281, associated with polyclonal V beta 8, V beta 7, and V beta 2 TCR beta chains. NK1 T cells recognize the products of the conserved family of MHC class I-like CD1 genes, apparently in the absence of foreign antigens. Thus, this novel regulatory pathway, which straddles the innate and the adaptive immune systems, is unique in that its activation may not require associative recognition of antigen. Here, we review the specificity and function of mouse NK1 T cells, and we discuss the relationship of this lineage to mainstream T cells and NK cells.