By using the two criteria (a) high density of immunoglobulin determinants on the cell surface and (b) presence of receptors for C'3 on the cell surface for defining bone marrow-derived lymphocytes, it is indirectly shown that all or at least a major population of human thymus-derived lymphocytes under certain conditions will form nonimmune rosettes with sheep red blood cells (SRBC). Almost all thymocytes tested from two different donors formed rosettes. The SRBC rosettes are not formed by virtue of immunoglobulin receptors and form only around living cells. Positive bivalent ions are required for rosette formation since EDTA will block rosette formation. Sodium iodoacetate will also block rosette formation demonstrating the dependence on an intact glycolytic pathway. Rosette formation is temperature dependent and will not appear at 37°C. Trypsin treatment of lymphocytes will abolish their SRBC-binding ability which cannot be restored by treating them with fresh donor serum or fetal calf serum, but which will reappear after culturing the lymphocytes. It is suggested that these rosettes are formed by a rapidly released or metabolized receptor substance on the living cell surface which behaves as a trypsin-sensitive structure produced by the cells themselves.

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