Influenza-specific immune cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) populations maintain a constant level of in vitro cytolytic activity. This is demonstrable with both heterogeneous populations of anti-viral CTL from immune donors and long-term CTL clones derived from primed CTL precursors. Cytolytic machinery is stably expressed by these CTL populations under a variety of in vitro cultivation conditions. This finding is in contrast to results with alloreactive CTL generated by stimulation of primed CTL precursors that lose cytolytic activity on a per cell basis with time after stimulation. The results indicate that virus-specific, cloned CTL that stably express cytolytic activity are representative of the heterogeneous populations from which they are derived and further suggest a qualitative difference in the regulation and expression of cytolytic machinery between heterogeneous populations of influenza-specific CTL and alloreactive CTL.