Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is an RNA virus which is estimated to persistently infect about 170 million people worldwide. After acute infection, there is an initial period during which long-term outcome is decided. There is strong evidence that the cellular immune responses, involving both CD4+ and CD8+ T lymphocytes, are involved at this stage and it is their effectiveness which determines outcome. What is not understood is what determines their effectiveness. The most important component of this is likely to be some aspect of epitope selection, itself dictated by host MHC. Thus, to understand host immunity to HCV, we need to have a detailed understanding of the peptides involved in T lymphocyte responses. In this review, we discuss the peptide epitopes that have been identified so far, and their potential significance. We relate this to a scheme of host defence which may be useful for understanding natural and vaccine-induced immunity.