Tyrosine-based activation motifs (TAMs) define a conserved signaling sequence, EX2YX2L/IX7YX2L/I, that couples the T cell antigen receptor to protein tyrosine kinases and adapter molecules. The present study shows that phosphorylation of both tyrosines within the motif is required for high affinity binding of the tyrosine kinase ZAP-70 whereas phosphorylation of the single COOH-terminal tyrosine within the motif is optimal for the binding of the adapter Shc. There were also quantitative differences in the ZAP-70 and Shc association with the ζ1-TAM since nM concentrations of the doubly phosphorylated ζ1-TAM are sufficient for ZAP-70 recruitment whereas micromolar levels of singly phosphorylated TAMs are necessary for Shc binding. Shc is tyrosine phosphorylated in antigen receptor-activated T cells and can potentially form a complex with the adapter molecule Grb2 and could thus recruit the Ras guanine nucleotide exchange protein Sos into the antigen receptor complex. The present data show that Grb2 can bind to the phosphorylated TAM, but this binding is independent of Shc and there is no formation of ζ1-TAM·Shc·Grb2·Sos complexes in antigen receptor-activated cells. Accordingly, Shc function should not be considered in the context of Grb2/Sos recruitment to the T cell antigen receptor complex.