Two interleukin-2 (IL-2)-dependent cytotoxic T-cell clones were obtained by limiting dilution from a lymphocyte culture stimulated in vitro with the autologous Epstein-Barr virus-transformed lymphoblastoid cell line (LCL) in the presence of fetal calf serum (FCS). Both clones uniformly had a T3+, T4+, Dr+ phenotype and lysed autologous B blasts, the autologous LCL and allogeneic B cell lines sharing major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II antigens. The cytotoxic function was triggered by FCS-derived components. There was no killing if the sensitive targets were cultured in serum-free medium or in medium supplemented with human serum. Sensitivity to lysis could be restored by exposing the targets to FCS for at least 6 hr at 37 °C. Monoclonal antibodies directed to T-cell-specific surface antigens and MHC class II antigens inhibited lysis with different efficiencies depending on the target cell origin. Killing of Burkitt's lymphoma (BL)-derived cell lines was blocked more easily than killing of LCLs. LCLs but not BL lines induced proliferation of the T-cell clones in the absence of exogenous IL-2. The differences were not related to quantitative variations in the expression of MHC class II antigens, indicating that BL lines differ from LCLs in other cell membrane properties that may influence antigen presentation. The results suggest that the affinity of effector/target binding, which is probably influenced by the concentration of antigenic determinants expressed on the target cell membrane, determines whether proliferative responses or cytotoxicity are induced in the antigen-recognizing T cells.