We have demonstrated that T lymphocytes from the spleens of adult guinea pigs sensitized to group A streptococcal antigens are cytotoxic for cultured fetal guinea pig heart cells. Lymphocyte cytotoxicity, measured by 51Cr release from target cells, was stimulated by sensitization in vivo with group A whole cells, cell walls, and purified protoplast membranes emulsified with complete Freund's adjuvant (CFA). Sensitization with group C streptococcal antigens in CFA or CFA alone produced lymphocytes with little or no specific cytotoxic activity. Target cells of cultured fetal skeletal muscle, liver, or skin were relatively refractory to effector cell cytotoxicity. The presence of antigenic determinants on the membranes of cultured myofibers, cross-reacting with group A streptococcal cellular antigens, was confirmed by immunofluorescence. These data are discussed in terms of a model for poststreptococcal rheumatic myocarditis in which cell-mediated autoimmune mechanisms may participate.

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