Peptide specificity of cultured tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TIL) was systematically investigated in a group of HLA-A2.1+ metastatic melanoma patients consecutively referred to our department for surgical treatment. Seven samples from 6 patients were studied. All surgical specimens showed evidence of gp 100, MART-1/Melan-A and Tyrosinase gene expression as detectable by reverse PCR (rPCR). Cultured TIL from 2 patients displayed cytotoxic activity against autologous or HLA-matched EBV-transformed cells previously pulsed with MART-1/Melan-A27-35 peptide. In contrast, no CTL activity against gp100(280-288) or tyrosinase1-9 peptides could be observed. TIL were then repeatedly stimulated in vitro with the same peptides. After 6 restimulation courses at weekly intervals, specific recognition of gp100(280-288) and MART-1/Melan-A peptides was detectable in 3 and 5 TIL populations, respectively. In one case Tyrosinase1-9-specific CTL could be demonstrated. Two TIL populations from metastases resected from a melanoma patient at 6 months' distance showed a different peptide specificity pattern, and no specific CTL could be generated from simultaneously sampled peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC). All peptide-specific CTL populations also displayed significant cytotoxic activity against HLA-A2.1 matched melanoma cell lines expressing the antigens under investigation. Our data indicate that CTL specific for MART-Melan-A27-35, gp100(280-288) or Tyrosinase1-9 peptides could be expanded with varying frequency from TIL derived from 4 out of 6 HLA-A2.1+ patients whose tumors expressed the genes encoding these tumor-associated antigens (TAA).