The nature of the in vitro human cytotoxic T-cell responder population to HSV type 1 (HSV-1) was studied. In 5-day HSV-1-stimulated cultures that contained MHC-restricted activity, two phenotypically distinct populations of cells were present that were capable of lysing HSV-1-infected B cell lines in a 5-h 51Cr-release assay. The first was CD4+, CD8-, CD16- cell typical of class II-restricted T cells, whereas the other population bore a CD4-, CD8-, CD16+ NK-cell phenotype. Elimination of the NK cell fraction from bulk cultures by using anti-CD16 plus C frequently resulted in cell populations that killed in an Ag-specific, HLA-DR-restricted fashion. In some cases the anti-CD16-pretreated cultures retained a killing population that was unrestricted to MHC products. In no instance were any cytotoxic T cells that were restricted to class I Ag in evidence. Limiting dilution analysis of precursor frequency indicated that about 1 in 4000 to 1 in 8000 cells from peripheral blood are specific for HSV-1 in seropositive individuals. Comparisons of HLA class I-matched and HLA class II-matched targets with the autologous target by using limiting dilution analysis yielded results entirely consistent with those obtained in the bulk culture assay system.