Melan-A/MART-1 is a melanoma differentiation antigen that is recognized by a high proportion of cytolytic T lymphocyte (CTL) clones derived from human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-A2+ melanoma patients. Whereas peptide Melan-A/ MART-1(27-35) was originally defined as the immunodominant CTL epitope, we have previously reported that peptide Melan-A/MART-1(26-35) was recognized more efficiently by the majority of tumor-reactive CTL clones. As demonstrated here, CTL populations generated from blood lymphocytes of either melanoma patients or healthy individuals after in vitro stimulation with peptide Melan-A/MART-1(26-35) killed specifically HLA-A2+ Melan-A+ allogeneic melanoma cells, thus suggesting their potential use in adoptive immunotherapy. We characterized the surface phenotype of the circulating CTL precursors (CTLp), which respond to in vitro stimulation with peptide Melan-A/MART-1(26-35). In melanoma patients, these CTLp predominantly expressed the CD45RO memory marker. In contrast, they were mainly, although not exclusively, found in the CD45RA subpopulation of CD8 T cells in healthy individuals. The demonstration that Melan-A/MART-1-specific CTLp in peripheral blood lymphocytes from HLA-A2+ patients with metastatic melanoma express a memory phenotype provides direct evidence that in vivo priming of this antigen may occur during tumor progression.