Peripheral blood mononuclear cells harvested from healthy adults seropositive for human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) and cultured with laboratory strain AD-169 demonstrated human leukocyte antigen-restricted and HCMV-specific killing on target cells infected with either HCMV laboratory strain AD-169 or recent low-passage HCMV isolates. These results indicated that the determinants recognized by cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) are shared among different strains of HCMV. However, when low-passage isolates, rather than high-passage AD-169 virions, were used to stimulate CTL activity, the lytic response was significantly lower against all targets. Mixing of AD-169 and low-passage HCMV isolates induced low CTL activity. Collectively, the findings suggest that low-passage HCMV isolates have dual effects--antigenic stimulation and immunosuppression--whereas laboratory strain AD-169 is primarily immunogenic. The study of several recent isolates indicated that they varied in their ratio of immunostimulation to suppression, that infectious virus was necessary to produce suppression, and that suppressive isolates did not have to be present at the initiation of culture to exert their suppressive effects.