A low proportion of T lymphocytes in normal mouse spleen contains small intracytoplasmic vesicles showing Class I MHC molecules. After stimulation in vitro in a mixed lymphocyte reaction or by addition of Con A, the proportion of T cells with such intracytoplasmic vesicles increases progressively and becomes the majority. Labeling with fluorochrome-conjugated antibodies has shown that the vesicles are formed by internalization of molecules from the plasma membrane. The process is spontaneous and does not require cross-linking by antibodies or other ligands; it is selective inasmuch as other molecules (Thy-1 and T200 antigens) are not included and it is specific since it is not performed by other cells such as B lymphoid cells or fibroblasts. On the whole the process shows similarities with the internalization and recycling of other receptors, such as the receptors for different macromolecules of metabolic or informational significance, as seen in other cells. On the other hand, the specificity of Class I MHC mobilization in T lymphoid cells suggest a role for this process which is related to the immune function of these molecules.

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