We show that T cell activation of human CD4+ cloned T cells through the CD2 molecule can induce either autocrine proliferation or cytolysis, depending on the pair of anti-CD2 mAbs used for stimulation, that is, D66/T11(1) or GT2/T11(1), respectively. As the earliest biochemical event after CD2 stimulation is likely the induction of tyrosine phosphorylation of various proteins, we investigated whether differential activation of protein tyrosine kinases (PTKs) could contribute to the selective induction of each function. Results show that herbimycin A, a potent PTK inhibitor, markedly decreased the induction of both proliferation and cytolysis. This implies a regulatory role for tyrosine phosphorylation in the induction of each function by CD2. However, that PTKs are differentially activated upon induction of proliferation by D66/T11(1) or cytotoxic function by GT2/T11(1) emanated from two different approaches. First, immunoblotting total cellular extracts with an anti-phosphotyrosine mAb showed different patterns of tyrosine phosphorylation depending on the pair of CD2 mAbs used for stimulation. Second, a differential activation of p56lck, a src-related PTK, was observed after stimulation with D66/T11, and GT2/T11(1). Although induction of proliferation by D66/T11(1) was correlated with increased Lck activity, this was not observed when cells were triggered to lyse by GT2/T11(1). Thus, by providing striking correlative evidences linking differences in PTK activation with induction of different functions in bifunctional cloned T cells, our results strongly suggest that PTKs may contribute to the selective orientation of T cell functions at a single-cell level.