A mitogen derived from the supernatant of broth cultures of Mycoplasma arthritidis (MAS-P) stimulates a proliferative response by normal, unprimed T cells and interleukin 2 production by some, but not all, T cell hybridomas. The response requires an IE-positive accessory cell (AC). The direct participation of IE, and not IA, in this system was confirmed by two sets of experiments. First, L cells transfected with IE, but not IA, provided effective AC function for both normal T cells and the T cell hybridoma DO-11.10. Second, we have taken a more direct approach by showing that purified IE incorporated in liposomes and used to coat glass beads can support the MAS-P response of the DO-11.10 T cell hybridoma in the absence of intact AC or other AC molecules. Although the receptor for IE-MAS-P has not been identified, we have eliminated from consideration two potential T cell recognition structures. Monoclonal antibody to the antigen-major histocompatibility complex specific receptor failed to inhibit the MAS-P response of DO-11.10 or the T cell line LBRM-33. Furthermore, the L3T4 molecule did not appear to be involved since an L3T4-negative variant of DO-11.10 responded well to the mitogen. In addition, we show that both Lyt-2-positive and L3T4-positive T cells respond to this class II-restricted stimulus. Thus, we postulate the existence of a non-T cell receptor, non-L3T4 receptor that recognizes MAS-P in association with a presumed nonpolymorphic region of IE.