We present a microtest for cell-mediated immunity, based on the use of the Tarasaki tray and calcein AM vital dye. The number of target cells needed has been reduced to 500 per test with a corresponding tenfold reduction in the number of effector cells needed. Results were read at the rate of 1 second per test using a fluorimeter attached to a microscope. Each reaction was also confirmed visually with the use of ethidium bromide as a counterstain for dead cells. The calcein AM dye used to stain the living cells was shown to have a low spontaneous leakage rate--less than 15% in 4 hours at 37 degrees C. Dilutions of targets stained by calcein AM had a linear relationship with measured fluorescence values. NK cells, LAKs, and CTLs were readily detectable by this microtest. Quantitation of killing and kinetic analysis was readily performed with this test system. A significant positive correlation to 51Cr-release results was found. We conclude that the microtest should find wide application in studies of cell-mediated immunity.