Antigen-specific receptors (TCR) on CD8 T lymphocytes form relatively short-lived complexes with their natural ligands: peptides in association with major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I molecules, which consist of a polymorphic heavy chain and a conserved light chain, beta2-microglobulin (beta2-M). To produce soluble MHC-peptide complexes in a form that would bind more stably and could be used to identify, count, and isolate CD8 T cells having the appropriate TCR, we prepared multimeric MHC-peptide complexes. Our work builds on the assembly of recombinant MHC class I peptide complexes using a mutant human beta2-M chain (Tyr 67 > Cys) which can form stable heterodimers with diverse MHC heavy chains. With biotin added to the SH group, the assembled MHC-peptide monomers formed multimers with avidin linked to a fluorochrome. The specific reactivity of the multimeric reagents with human and mouse cytotoxic T cells (CTL) is described. The present approach permits the production of class I multimers, without the necessity of genetic engineering each heavy chain, a significant advantage in view of the enormous polymorphism of MHC heavy chains. Because human beta2-M forms stable heterodimers with diverse class I heavy chains from various species (human and non human primates, mouse, etc.), this procedure is a general method for producing multimers of MHC-peptide complexes as T cell receptor-specific probes.