We report herein the successful priming of human anti-viral cytotoxic T cells (CTL) in vitro using two induction strategies based on the stimulation of peripheral blood mononuclear cells isolated from uninfected donors with synthetic viral peptides. The peptides used contain HLA-A2 binding motifs and have been identified as HLA-A2-restricted CTL epitopes in patients infected by the hepatitis B and C viruses. One approach uses repetitive long-term stimulation and the other uses bulk cultures containing large numbers of naive peripheral blood mononuclear cells. Both approaches successfully induce HLA-A2-restricted CTL specific for several viral epitopes. Some CTL recognize endogenously synthesized antigen on target cells infected with recombinant vaccinia virus expressing the corresponding viral proteins. This simple technique permits easy analysis of the primary human CTL repertoire, and may be exploitable for production of specific CTL effector cells for adoptive immunotherapy and dissection of the cellular and molecular requirements for priming of naive human CTL.