The original polarity of lysis experiments suggested that CTL are themselves sensitive to whatever mechanism it is that CTL use to lyse their targets. This concept has placed certain limitations on possible mechanisms of lysis by CTL. Recently, we found in studies with cloned CTL as targets that cloned CTL are in fact highly resistant to lysis by other CTL, as well as to their cytotoxic granule proteins. We show here that although cloned CTL are extremely resistant to lysis by primary and cloned CTL, they are readily inactivated functionally by all primary CTL and by at least one CTL clone. Moreover, cloned CTL are also functionally inactivated by cytotoxic granule proteins. The activation of CTL, which we call inhibitin, is Ca2+ insensitive and distinct from hemolytic activity, and is, thus, unlikely to be perforin. These experiments suggest a possible alternative interpretation of the original polarity of lysis experiments.