Mutants that lack expression of phosphatidylinositol (PI)-anchored proteins were derived from the human B lymphoblastoid JY cell line. It was demonstrated that unlike wild-type cells, which normally express both a transmembrane and a PI-linked form of LFA-3 glycoprotein, the mutant cells expressed only the transmembrane form of LFA-3. [3H]Ethanolamine was not incorporated into LFA-3 of mutant cells, indicating that the anchor moiety was entirely missing. Blockade of normal biosynthesis of the PI-anchored form led to accumulation of two intermediates that may have intact and truncated polypeptide chains. The truncated LFA-3, which was not attached to the cell membrane, was secreted by mutant cells into culture supernatants. A possible division of adhesion function between the two forms of LFA-3 was studied by using the JY cell lines as targets for CTL. Wild-type and mutant JY cells formed conjugates with CTL and were subsequently lysed to a similar extent. In addition, wild-type and mutant JY cells stimulated CTL proliferation to the same extent. Antibody-blocking experiments demonstrated a predominant role for the CD2/LFA-3 pathway in interaction of both wild-type and mutant cells with CTL. Because E exclusively express only the PI-linked LFA-3 form, and this form is known to mediate cell adhesion, the present results indicate that the two distinct membrane-anchored LFA-3 forms are each capable of mediating adhesion. A possible division of signaling functions between the two forms of LFA-3 is under investigation.