There is now convincing evidence that CD8+ T cells can be activated by professional antigen-presenting cells which present antigens derived from non-lymphoid tissues in association with MHC class I molecules in the draining lymph nodes. This mechanism, referred to as cross-presentation, enables the immune system to respond to those microorganisms that infect only non-lymphoid tissues. Consistent with this view, cross-presentation was found to focus on antigens expressed in high concentrations and those released from dying cells, which can be expected to result from viral infections. Recent evidence, however, demonstrates that high dose self antigens can be cross-presented constitutively, resulting in the activation of autoreactive CD8+ T cells. This does not lead to auto immunity under physiologic conditions, but to CD95-mediated deletion of the T cells. Cross-presentation can thus engage a well-defined pathway of antigen-induced T-cell death and purge the immune system of autoreactive CD8+ T cells. Low dose self antigens are not cross-presented and are consequently ignored. The immune system therefore uses two strategies to avoid CD8+ T-cell-mediated autoimmunity in the periphery: deletion of autoreactive CD8+ T cells responding to high dose self antigens and ignorance of self antigens expressed at low concentrations.