The core polyprotein of feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) was expressed in primary feline T-lymphocytes using a retroviral vector. These cells were used as antigen-presenting stimulator cells (APSC) for the in vitro induction of cytotoxic T-lymphocytes (CTL) from feline peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC). CTL from 4 cats chronically infected with the Petaluma strain of FIV specifically lysed autologous FIV-infected targets in an MHC-restricted manner. The CD8 phenotype of more than 70% of the induced effector cells (97% for cells from one cat) was consistent with MHC class I-restricted cytotoxicity. In addition, it was possible to detect low levels of core polyprotein-specific lysis from effector cells of two of the FIV-infected cats. When observed, the level of lysis, measured as a percentage of specific 111In release, was lower for the transgenic gag-expressing targets than for FIV-infected targets. The difference in killing may reflect the low level of core CTL were not detected in either PBMC stimulated with cells transduced by a retroviral vector without the FIV gag sequence or PBMC from an uninfected cat stimulated with autologous transgenic APSC. The detection of FIV-specific CTL from infected cats following stimulation with transgenic APSC suggests a role for retroviral vectors in determining CTL specific for individual lentiviral proteins in protective immunity.