We have studied the kinetics of the antigen induced response of naive and memory CD8 T cells expressing a transgenic T cell receptor (TCR) specific for the glycoprotein peptide amino acid 33-41 (GP33) of the lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV). Memory T cells were generated in vivo by adoptive transfer of LCMV TCR transgenic T cells into normal recipient mice, followed by LCMV infection. The results demonstrated that the cell cycle progression and kinetics of TCR down-modulation, CD25 and CD69 up-regulation were identical in naive and memory T cells after antigen recognition. Moreover, the two T cell populations did not differ in respect of activation thresholds and in their proliferative capacities neither in vitro nor in vivo. However, memory CD8 T cells could be more rapidly induced to become cytolytic and to secrete high levels of interleukin-2 and interferon-gamma than naive T cells. LCMV GP33-specific CD8 memory T cells were only slightly more efficient in reducing LCMV titers in the spleen but were far more effective than naive LCMV GP33-specific T cells in controlling subcutaneous tumor growth of B16.F10 melanoma cells which expressed the LCMV GP33 epitope as tumor-associated antigen. Thus, in our experiments the main difference between CD8 memory T cells and naive cells is the ability of the former to rapidly acquire effector cell functions.