In the present study we examined the expression of I-region-associated (Ia) antigens by guinea pig T lymphocytes stimulated in vitro with antigen-pulsed macrophages. Treatment of lymph node (LNL) or peritoneal exudate (PEL) T cells taken directly from immune animals with anti-Ia serum and complement (C) dramatically reduced their proliferative response to antigen-pulsed macrophages when determined on the 4th day of culture. In contrast, the response of immune T cells that had been selected by culture for a week with antigen-pulsed macrophages and restimulated in a second culture was not affected by anti-Ia and C treatment. This same result occurred with selected LNL or PEL that were initially treated before the selection culture with either normal serum or anti-Ia serum and C. LNL became resistant to anti-Ia serum and C treatment by 3 days of culture whereas antigen-specific PEL were still sensitive at that time. These results indicate that in an immune animal two antigen-specific T cell subpopulations are generated based on their sensitivity to anti-Ia serum and C treatment, but that only the resistant population is selected by in vitro culture. In addition, we demonstrated that the Ia-negative T cell population can only be activated by histocompatible antigen-pulsed macrophages.