The classical pathway for MHC class-I-restricted Ag presentation processes cytosolic Ag synthesized in or delivered into the cytosol for binding to MHC class I molecules in the ER. Alternatively, Ag may be processed and bind class I molecules in endocytic compartments or at the cell surface after regurgitation of processed peptides. We show that a 69-mer synthetic polypeptide that carries the optimal 9-mer Kd-restricted epitope from the Plasmodium berghei circumsporozoite protein, PbCS 245-253, is presented to CD8+ T cells after a short incubation (1-2 h) with target cells. The presentation kinetics correlate with the length of the peptides when shorter peptide analogues are used. This presentation is independent of the transporters associated with antigen processing and presentation (TAP), does not require newly synthesized proteins and does not proceed via regurgitation of intracellularly processed peptides. In contrast, it is substantially decreased in the absence of beta2 microglobulin or serum. Taken together, these data suggest that serum components, such as proteases and beta2 microglobulin, allow the processing and loading of exogenous polypeptides onto empty cell surface class I molecules for presentation to CTL.