We have analyzed the ability of interleukin 2 (IL 2) to induce lytic activity within a cloned murine H-2Dd-specific CTL line. Weakly lytic CTL harvested 6 to 7 days after previous stimulation with irradiated DBA/2J spleen cells and conditioned medium from secondary MLC (MLC SN) could be reactivated to high antigen-specific lytic activity with highly purified gibbon IL 2 or E. coli-produced human recombinant DNA IL 2. Dose-response curves with IL 2 and MLC SN suggest that IL 2 may be the principal detectable activity in MLC SN that is active on these CTL. Doses of IL 2 or MLC SN that were saturating for the induction of lytic activity were suboptimal for the expression of DNA synthesis measured by 3HTdR incorporation. This is consistent with a mechanism in which different threshold IL 2 concentrations are required to induce these two biologic responses. Finally, we show that IFN-gamma has little effect on the expression of lytic activity either alone or in combination with IL 2 in this bioassay.