The cytotoxic responses of peripheral blood lymphocytes from cottontop tamarins to in vitro restimulation with autologous lymphoblastoid cell lines (LCL) were assayed. Lymphocytes from immune tamarins that had recovered from EBV challenge developed potent cytotoxicity for natural killer (NK) cell targets and for autologous LCL. The cytotoxicity for LCL targets was EBV-specific, as B cell blasts uninfected with EBV were not killed. The cell lines could be maintained by repeated stimulation with LCL and the addition of IL-2. Flow cytometry showed that they were T cell lines expressing CD2, CD3, CD4, CD8 and CD25. Dual-colour flow cytometry revealed two subpopulations, one CD4+ CD8+ population and the other CD4- CD8+. After separation by magnetic cell sorting both subpopulations were shown to be cytotoxic and the CD4+ CD8+ fraction was also shown to be MHC class II-restricted; the MHC restriction of the CD8+ subpopulation could not be determined. The unseparated T cells and both the subpopulations were able to inhibit LCL outgrowth in vitro. In contrast, PBL from naive tamarins stimulated by autologous LCL developed less NK cell cytotoxicity and little cytotoxicity for LCL. The cytotoxic response was enhanced at higher levels of LCL stimulation, but the cells were unable to inhibit LCL outgrowth in vitro. We conclude that cytotoxic responses capable of inhibiting LCL growth in vitro correlate with in vivo immunity in the tamarin model and provide a basis for understanding the mechanism of vaccine-induced immune protection.