Epstein-Barr virus-specific cytotoxic T lymphocyte clones were shown to be an effective target for their own lysis when incubated in the presence of their specific epitopes but not in the presence of irrelevant epitopes. The mode of cell killing appeared to be by apoptosis and was prevented by previously described inhibitors of the process. Degranulation, as measured by serine esterase activity, was involved in this form of T cell-T cell killing. This is the first report of T cell-T cell killing by apoptosis and is only observed in the presence of a specific epitope. This result may be of significance in the use of peptide-based vaccines.

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