T cells recognize antigenic peptides in the context of major histocompatibility complex (MHC) proteins. Peptide binding to class II MHC proteins, and T-cell recognition of these complexes at the functional level has been demonstrated. Although considerable evidence suggests that class I-restricted cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) recognize class I-peptide complexes, this has not yet been directly demonstrated. Chen and Parham have recently detected a low level of direct binding of radiolabelled influenza peptides to class I HLA proteins, but the relevance of this binding to T-cell recognition remains uncertain. We report here that purified class I proteins pulsed with influenza peptides can trigger antigen-specific, TCR-mediated degranulation by CTL. Effective pulsing depends on both peptide concentration and time, and can occur within 60 minutes. These results provide strong support for the formation of an antigenic complex that is recognized by CTL in which peptide antigens are bound to isolated class I proteins.