It is well established that expression of self antigens results in the deletion of the functional high-avidity self-specific T cell repertoire. Due to the low frequency of naturally occurring low-avidity self-specific T cells, a detailed evaluation of their ability to survive and differentiate into effector and memory populations in vivo has yet to be obtained. We here employ tetramer technology to characterize and determine the in vivo fate of a self-specific CD8(+) T cell population specific for a ubiquitously expressed T cell epitope. We find that in influenza nucleoprotein (NP)-transgenic mice (B10NP mice) an oligoclonal population of NP(366 - 374)-specific T cells can be triggered by live influenza virus exposure. The main hallmark of this self-specific T cell population is its diminished avidity for the tetrameric MHC / NP peptide complex. These low-avidity T cells are not deleted and do not down-regulate their antigen or CD8 receptors, and exhibit cytolytic activity towards tumor cells expressing NP endogenously. Strikingly, a secondary influenza infection generates a typical memory response in the low-avidity repertoire. The observation that low-avidity T cells persist in vivo and can differentiate into memory T cells underscores their potential role in anti-tumor immunity.