Listeria monocytogenes is a Gram-positive bacterium which grows in the cytoplasm of eukaryotic cells and can cause severe disease in immunocompromised individuals. In murine systems CD8+ T lymphocytes have been shown to be important effectors of acquired protective immunity against L. monocytogenes. Class I MHC-restricted CD8+ cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL), which lyse J774 macrophage-like targets infected with L. monocytogenes, are induced following in vivo injection of live organisms. Natural peptide epitopes derived from L. monocytogenes can be acid-extracted from heavily infected BALB/c spleens and detected by CTL. A CTL clone, B9, derived from a (BALB/c x C57BL/6)F1 (H-2dxb) mouse, recognizes one of these natural epitopes in an H-2Kd-restricted fashion. B9 also recognizes P815 (H-2d) mastocytoma cells transfected with the listeriolysin gene. To identify the region of the listeriolysin recognized by CTL we used the H-2Kd peptide-binding motif described by Rammensee and colleagues to synthesize 11 nonamer peptides. One of these peptides, listeriolysin 91-99, was recognized very efficiently by B9. This represents the first identified class I MHC-restricted epitope of bacteria and demonstrates the utility of the allele-specific motif for predicting CTL epitopes.