Regulation of the human immune response was studied by sequential separation of subsets of T cells, followed by assessment of their helper and suppressor functions in a series of reconstitution experiments. T8+ lymphocytes were separated by panning on streptococcal antigen (SA) coated plates into T8+ SA-adherent cells (T8+SA+) and T8+ SA-non-adherent cells (T8+SA-). The helper and suppressor functions of the T8+SA+ and T8+SA- cells, reconstituted with T4+ helper cells were then studied by a direct antibody forming cell assay. T4+ cells will not induce helper activity by 1000 ng SA alone but require the accessory function of monocytes (Mo). However, replacing Mo by T8+SA+ cells will elicit a similar helper activity by T4+ cells and SA as that induced by Mo. In addition to the antigen-specific presentation and induction of helper activity, the T8+SA+ subset displays the properties of antigen-specific contrasuppressor cells. Thus, reconstitution of T4+ cells and T8+SA- (suppressor cells) with T8+SA+ and 1000 ng SA induces helper and no suppressor activity. Substitution of Mo for the T8+SA+ cells converts the helper to a predominantly suppressor-cell function. T8+SA- cells elicit suppression with 1 ng SA in the absence of accessory cells and reconstitution with Mo, T8+SA+ or T4+ cells failed to affect the suppressor activity. Total reconstitution of the four principle subsets of T4+, T8+SA+, T8+SA- cells and Mo elicited similar antigen dose-dependent responses as those of the unseparated mononuclear cells. It seems that all four cell subsets are required for optimal immunoregulation. We suggest that the T8+SA+ can present antigen to T4+ helper cells and induce helper activity, but in addition these cells can prevent the suppressor subset of T8+ cells from inhibiting T4+ helper cells and function as contrasuppressor cells. The mechanism of these functions is not known but HLA class II antigens might play an essential role in antigen binding, presentation and contrasuppression of the T8+SA+ cells, as the latter are significantly enriched in Ia+ cells.