Immunization of mice with lower primate lymphoid cells has provided a useful strategy for raising monoclonal antibodies against functionally important surface determinants on human T lymphocytes. We have developed a monoclonal antibody, anti-2H4, which defines functionally unique human T cell subsets. This anti-2H4 antibody was reactive with approximately 42% of unfractionated T cells, 41% of T4+ inducer cells, and was reactive with approximately 54% of T8+ cytotoxic/suppressor population. Anti-2H4 was not reactive with human thymocytes, but reacted with subsets of peripheral blood B cells and null cells. This antibody subdivided peripheral blood T4+ cells into two functionally distinct populations. The T4+2H4+ subset proliferate well to concanavalin A (Con A) stimulation, but poorly to soluble antigen stimulation, and provides poor help to B cells for PWM-induced Ig synthesis. The T4+2H4- subset, in contrast, proliferates poorly upon stimulation with Con A, but well on exposure to soluble antigen, and provides a good helper signal for PWM-induced Ig synthesis. What is, perhaps, most important, the T4+2H4+ subset functions as the inducer of the T8+ suppressor cells. Previous attempts to define the latter subset of cells has relied heavily on the use of specific autoantibodies present in the sera of patients with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). The present results suggest that anti-2H4 antibody defines the human suppressor induced subset of lymphocyte previously described as T4+JRA+. Last, the results reemphasize the previously documented remarkable structural conservation of certain T cell-specific determinants on lymphocytes of phylogenetically distant primates.