Peptides that are bound by the murine class I MHC molecule H-2Kk have been isolated and sequenced. The initial step in the fractionation was affinity column isolation of the peptide-class I complex from either RDM-4 or x5563 tumor cell lines. Acid denaturation of the complex followed by HPLC fractionation of the peptides allowed us to sequence individual peptides, as well as pools of peptides. To date, a total of 10 sequences have been characterized, and all were 8 mers. The sequences were variable except for glutamic acid in the second position (P2) and isoleucine in the eighth (P8), which were highly conserved. To further study peptide binding to H-2Kk, a competitive binding assay consisting of the immobilized histocompatibility protein and a biotinylated self-peptide for signal generation was developed. A complete set of single-alanine variants for this one self-peptide was tested in the assay, demonstrating that substitution at P2 and P8 markedly decreased the affinity for the class I molecule; alanine at position 3 had an intermediate effect on binding. A comparison of the identified self-peptides for binding to H-2Kk showed that they differed in affinity by more than one order of magnitude. Influenza virus nucleoprotein peptide, SDY EGR LI, associated with the plate-bound class I molecule, and the resulting MHC-peptide complex could trigger TNF release by influenza-primed CTLs. This result demonstrated the functional activity of the plate-bound H-2Kk-peptide complex.