Mounting evidence shows that CD8(+) T cells contribute to the initiation, progression and regulation of several pathogenic autoimmune responses in which these cells were not previously thought to play a major role. CD8(+) T cells can kill target cells directly, by recognizing peptide-MHC complexes on target cells, or indirectly, by secreting cytokines capable of signaling through death receptors expressed on the target cell surface. Autoreactive CD8(+) T cells can also contribute to autoimmunity by releasing cytokines capable of increasing the susceptibility of target cells to cytotoxicity, or by secreting chemokines that attract other immune cells to the site of autoimmunity. Autoreactive CD8(+) T cells can also downregulate autoimmune responses. Recent important advances include a mechanistic understanding of events leading to the activation and recruitment of autoreactive CD8(+) T cells in certain autoimmune responses and a greater appreciation of the diverse roles that these T cells play in autoimmunity.