The antigenic profile and the proliferative pathways in leukemic cells from the patient TRT with T-prolymphocytic leukemia (T-PLL) were analyzed using monoclonal antibodies (MoAbs) and cytokines. T-PLL cells expressed the phenotype CD1- CD3+ CD4+ CD8+. Incubation with the differentiating agent phorbol-12-myristate-13-acetate markedly increased the percentage of cells with the CD4- CD8+ phenotype, suggesting that leukemic cells were already committed towards a differentiated element with the CD4- CD8+ phenotype. T-PLL cells were induced to proliferate by anti-CD2 MoAb 9–1 + 9.6 and by anti-CD3 MoAb OKT3. The two pathways exhibited normal functional interactions and were susceptible to modulation by anti-HLA class I MoAbs. These results indicate that regulation of cell proliferation was preserved to a significant extent in the T-PLL cells analyzed. At variance with normal resting T cells that require previous activation to proliferate when incubated with interleukin-1 (IL-1) or interleukin-2 (IL-2), T-PLL cells proliferated vigorously when incubated with either interleukin. Furthermore, T-PLL cells proliferated when incubated with immune interferon (IFN-gamma). The latter finding parallels the enhancement by IFN-gamma of the proliferative response of lectin-activated murine T lymphocytes. These results suggest that T-PLL cells, which express a high constitutive level of c-myc mRNA, may be in an activated state. The antigenic phenotype and the characteristics of the proliferative pathways of T-PLL cells from the patient TRT are compatible with the possibility that they may be derived from an intermediate thymocyte.