The analysis of 30 well characterized murine T lymphocyte populations using a cytofluorometric IgA binding assay has identified many populations that are constitutive and/or inducible for IgA receptor expression, and has identified two distinct mechanisms by which IgA up-regulates the IgA-binding properties of murine T cells. Studies with lymphomas, hybridomas, Ag-specific clones and activated normal splenic T cells identified many examples of CD4 and CD8 lineage cells that constitutively expressed IgA receptors. T cell populations that constitutively expressed IgA receptors exhibited enhanced IgA binding after incubation with oligomeric IgA for 18 h. The IgA-induced up-regulation of IgA binding resulted from two distinct processes: 1) an increase in the number of surface membrane IgA binding sites and 2) an increase in the avidity of IgA binding without a change in the number of binding sites. The IgA-induced avidity increase was reflected by a 5- to 10-fold decrease in the apparent Kd. Depending on the T cell population examined the enhanced binding of IgA involved one or both of these mechanisms. T cell populations that did not constitutively express IgA receptors failed to bind IgA after prolonged incubation with oligomeric IgA suggesting that if such cells can express IgA receptors they require other signals to induce their expression. Consistent with this possibility is the finding that resting splenic T cells did not bind IgA but their activation with Con A or mAb anti-T3 resulted in high level expression of IgA receptors. These studies have identified multiple distinct mechanisms that alter the IgA-binding properties of murine T cells and are discussed in terms of their possible physiologic significance.