CD4 T cells recognized posttranslationally modified peptides of the protein hen egg-white lysozyme (HEL), consisting of nitration of tyrosines and modifications of tryptophans in the T cell contact residues of the peptides. T cells were directed against modifications of a chemically dominant HEL peptide as well as a minor HEL peptide, bound to the class II histocompatibility molecule I-A(k). The modified peptides were generated in vivo after immunization with native HEL molecules or were generated ex vivo by peroxynitrite treatment of HEL. Moreover, antigen-presenting cells (APC), either macrophages or dendritic cells activated in culture or in vivo, generated the modified HEL epitopes that stimulated the T cells. In transgenic mice expressing HEL, the T cells to the modified epitopes escaped negative selection and were found, albeit fewer in number than in normal mice. Infection with Listeria monocytogenes of the transgenic HEL mice generated APC containing the modifications. T cells to modified epitopes induced by activation of APC may be a component of antimicrobial immunity and autoimmune reactions.