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The immune system of swine is unique in that the expression of CD4 and CD8 antigens defines four subpopulations of resting, extrathymic (CD1-) T lymphocytes in the circulation as well as in lymphoid tissue. Here it is documented that the specialty of the porcine T lymphocyte compartment extends to the expression of class II MHC (SLA) antigens. While the TCR-gamma/delta CD4-CD8- as well as the TCR-alpha/beta CD4+CD8- subpopulation both lack MHC II, the TCR-alpha/beta CD4-CD8+ and the CD4+CD8+ subpopulation, the latter of which is private to swine, both do express MHC II. As opposed to human T lymphocytes, expression of porcine MHC II is not transient and restricted to lymphoblasts but is immanent in small, resting T lymphocytes of the two CD8-expressing subsets, even though also in swine activation can induce MHC II. Activation-induced extrathymic acquisition of MHC II without reversal can be discussed as one possible way of how MHC II+ T lymphocytes are generated. Alternatively, MHC II antigens should already be expressed by thymic progenitors. Remarkably, all CD1+CD4-CD8+ and most CD1+CD4+CD8+ thymocytes lack MHC II, yet, a minor subset with the phenotype CD4hiCD8hi expresses MHC II. One may speculate that these cells do not undergo thymic selection and represent the progenitors of the unusual, swine-typic MHC II+CD4+CD8+ extrathymic T lymphocytes.