Virus-infected cells can be eliminated by cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL), which recognize virus-derived peptides bound to major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I molecules on the cell surface. Until now, this notion has relied on overwhelming but indirect evidence, as the existence of naturally processed viral peptides has not been previously reported. Here we show that such peptides can be extracted from virus-infected cells by acid elution. Both the naturally processed H-2-Db-restricted and H-2-Kd-restricted peptides from influenza nucleoprotein are smaller than the corresponding synthetic peptides, which have first been used to determine the respective CTL epitopes. As with minor histocompatibility antigens, occurrence of viral peptides seems to be heavily dependent on MHC class I molecules, because infected H-2d cells do not contain the H-2-Db-restricted peptide, and infected H-2b cells do not contain the H-2-Kd-restricted peptide. Our data provide direct experimental proof for the above notion on MHC-associated viral peptides on virus-infected cells.