Thymic stromal cell clone, TNC-R3.1 cell, was established from spontaneous AKR/J mouse thymoma. TNC-R3.1 cell, which has the similar properties to thymic nurse cells, formed a unique complex with normal thymocyte subpopulations. Flow cytometry analysis demonstrated that CD4+8+ and CD4-8- immature thymocytes preferentially interacted with TNC-R3.1 stromal cell clone. CD4+8+ thymocytes, which interacted with TNC-R3.1 stromal cell clone, contained a higher proportion of large size and cycling T cells than did noninteracting CD4+8+ thymocytes. As is generally accepted, CD4+8+ thymocytes did not respond to any stimulation such as IL-2, anti-CD3 mAb (2C11), or IL-2 plus 2C11. However, culture of isolated CD4+8+ thymocytes on TNC-R3.1 stromal cell monolayer in the presence of suboptimal dose of IL-2 induced a significant cell growth. Moreover, the addition of 2C11 and IL-2 into this coculture system resulted in a dramatic increase of the proliferative response of thymocytes. Flow cytometry analysis showed the proliferating cells on TNC-R3.1, which originated from CD4+8+ thymocytes, were mostly TCR-alpha beta+ CD3+CD4-8+ T cells. These results provide in vitro evidence that CD4+8+ thymocytes are at an intermediate stage of T cell maturation and TNC-R3.1 stromal cell clone induces the growth and differentiation of CD4+8+ thymocytes into CD4-8+ T cells.