The role of lipid rafts in T cell antigen receptor (TCR) signaling was investigated using fluorescence microscopy. Lipid rafts labeled with cholera toxin B subunit (CT-B) and cross-linked into patches displayed characteristics of rafts isolated biochemically, including detergent resistance and colocalization with raft-associated proteins. LCK, LAT, and the TCR all colocalized with lipid patches, although TCR association was sensitive to nonionic detergent. Aggregation of the TCR by anti-CD3 mAb cross-linking also caused coaggregation of raft-associated proteins. However, the protein tyrosine phosphatase CD45 did not colocalize to either CT-B or CD3 patches. Cross-linking of either CD3 or CT-B strongly induced tyrosine phosphorylation and recruitment of a ZAP-70(SH2)(2)-green fluorescent protein (GFP) fusion protein to the lipid patches. Also, CT-B patching induced signaling events analagous to TCR stimulation, with the same dependence on expression of key TCR signaling molecules. Targeting of LCK to rafts was necessary for these events, as a nonraft- associated transmembrane LCK chimera, which did not colocalize with TCR patches, could not reconstitute CT-B-induced signaling. Thus, our results indicate a mechanism whereby TCR engagement promotes aggregation of lipid rafts, which facilitates colocalization of LCK, LAT, and the TCR whilst excluding CD45, thereby triggering protein tyrosine phosphorylation.