CD5 is a 67-kDa T cell surface Ag that can be found physically associated with the CD3-TCR molecular complex. In different experimental models it has been shown to act as a costimulatory receptor for T cell activation. Unexpectedly, studies in CD5-deficient mice suggested a negative role for the CD5 Ag in CD3-TCR signaling in the thymus. In this report we assessed the constitutive interactions of CD5 in freshly isolated human thymocytes with signaling elements of the CD3-TCR complex. We determined that the ZAP-70 protein tyrosine kinase was present in CD5 immunoprecipitates. The two molecules were constitutively tyrosine phosphorylated in a complex also associating with unphosphorylated as well as phosphorylated zeta-chains. Although both p21 and p23 tyrosine-phosphorylated forms of zeta as well as phospho-CD3 epsilon molecules were constitutively present in human thymocytes and could be immunoprecipitated with ZAP-70- or CD3 epsilon-specific Abs, the p21 species of zeta was predominant in CD5 immune complexes. The interaction between CD5 and ZAP-70 was not observed in CD3-negative thymocytes, where the constitutive tyrosine phosphorylation of ZAP-70 was very low. We conclude that CD5 may affect in vivo the signaling capacity of TCRs expressed by human thymocytes by altering the phosphorylation state of CD3 and/or by retaining ZAP-70 with the p21 species of zeta.