Human T-cell lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1), a complex retrovirus, encodes a hydrophobic 12-kD protein from pX open reading frame (ORF) I that localizes to cellular endomembranes and contains four minimal SH3 binding motifs (PXXP). We have demonstrated the importance of ORF I expression in the establishment of infection and hypothesize that p121 has a role in T-cell activation. In this study, we tested interleukin-2 (IL-2) receptor expression, IL-2-mediated proliferation, and Jak/Stat activation in T-cell lines immortalized with either wild-type or ORF I mutant clones of HTLV-1. All cell lines exhibited typical patterns of T-cell markers and maintained mutation fidelity. No significant differences between cell lines were observed in IL-2 receptor chain (α,β, or γ) expression, in IL-2-mediated proliferation, or in IL-2-induced phosphorylated forms of Stat3, Stat5, Jak1, or Jak3. The expression of ORF I is more likely to play a role in early HTLV- 1 infection, such as in the activation of quiescent T cells in vivo.