Analyses with segmental reassortants of lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) RNA have shown that cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) are induced by and recognize proteins encoded by the viral short segment, which specifies two virus structural proteins, glycoprotein (GP) and nucleoprotein (NP). Expression of cDNA copies of these genes in vaccinia virus vectors demonstrates that C57BL/6 (H2bb) mice mount significant CTL responses to both GP and NP. We have used LCMV-specific H2bb-restricted CTL clones and a family of serial C-terminal truncations of the LCMV GP expressed in vaccinia virus to map the precise specificities of the anti-GP clones. Of the 18 CTL clones studied, 1 recognizes NP and the other 17 recognize GP. The reactivities of 14 of the 17 anti-GP CTL clones against the deleted GP molecules have been fully characterized, and two clear patterns of anti-GP activity have emerged, defining at least two CTL epitopes. The first epitope, recognized by only two of the clones, lies within GP residues 1 to 218. The second is recognized by all 12 of the remaining clones and was mapped, by using the GP deletions, to a 22-amino-acid region comprising GP residues 272 to 293. A synthetic peptide representing this area sensitized uninfected syngeneic target cells to lysis both by bulk CTL obtained from the spleen after a primary immunization and by appropriate CTL clones. Two sets of criteria are available which are said to identify potential T-cell epitopes, one based on primary amino acid sequence and the second based on protein secondary structure. Neither of these predictive schemes would have identified region 272 to 293 as a CTL recognition motif, indicating that such programs are of limited usefulness as presently conceived. Analysis of the CTL clones shows clearly that all three families (anti-NP and anti-GP 1 to 218 and 272 to 293) direct efficient cross-reactive killing against a variety of serologically distinct strains of LCMV.