Previous work has shown that memory-phenotype CD44(hi) CD8(+) cells are controlled by a cytokine, interleukin (IL)-15. However, the dependency of CD44(hi) CD8(+) cells on IL-15 is partial rather than complete. Here, evidence is presented that CD44(hi) CD8(+) cells comprise a mixed population of IL-15-dependent and IL-15-independent cells. The major subset of CD122(hi) CD44(hi) CD8(+) cells is heavily dependent on IL-15 by three different parameters, namely (1) "bystander" proliferation induced via IFN-induced stimulation of the innate immune system, (2) normal "background" proliferation, and (3) T cell survival; IL-15 dependency is most extreme for the Ly49(+) subset of CD122(hi) CD44(hi) CD8(+) cells. In contrast to CD122(hi) cells, the CD122(lo) subset of CD44(hi) CD8(+) cells is IL-15 independent; likewise, being CD122(lo), CD44(hi) CD4(+) cells are IL-15 independent. Thus, subsets of memory-phenotype T cells differ radically in their sensitivity to IL-15.