The recent generation of perforin knock-out mice has demonstrated a crucial role for the pore-forming perforin in cytolytic T-lymphocyte (CTL)-mediated cytolysis. Perforin-deficient mice failed to clear lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus in vivo, yet substantial killing activity still remained in perforin-free CTLs in vitro, indicating the presence of (a) further lytic pathway(s). Fas is an apoptosis-signalling receptor molecule on the surface of a number of different cells. Here we report that both perforin-deficient and Fas-ligand-deficient CTLs show impaired lytic activity on all target cells tested. The killing activity was completely abolished when both pathways were inactivated by using target cells from Fas-receptor-deficient lpr mice and perforin-free CTL effector cells. Fas-ligand-based killing activity was triggered upon T-cell receptor occupancy and was directed to the cognate target cell. Thus, two complementary, specific cytotoxic mechanisms are functional in CTLs, one based on the secretion of lytic proteins and one which depends on cell-surface ligand-receptor interaction.