Tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TIL) were obtained from human ovarian tumors, expanded in the presence of IL-2 in culture and studied for cytotoxicity against fresh autologous and allogeneic ovarian carcinoma (CA) targets. TIL from ovarian tumors grew well in long term cultures, achieving from 8- to 682-fold expansion. TIL cultured with IL-2 were cytotoxic against both autologous and allogeneic fresh ovarian CA targets, and no specificity for autologous tumor could be demonstrated in any of the cultures. In all fresh TIL preparations, CD3+ lymphocytes were the major cell type and contained a high proportion (up to 51%) of activated (IL-2R+) cells as determined by two-color flow cytometry. Sorting of bulk TIL cultures followed by cytotoxicity assays identified the Leu-19+ cells, both CD3+ and CD3-, as effectors of cytotoxicity against autologous and allogeneic tumor cell targets. Cold target inhibition assays showed that allogeneic targets (both ovarian CA and a sarcoma) competed effectively with autologous ovarian CA targets for Leu-19+ effectors in TIL cultures. mAb to Leu-19 or Leu-2a did not block lysis of autologous targets by sorted effectors. OKT3 antibody augmented lysis of autologous targets by CD3+Leu-19- effectors only. These results show that non-MHC-restricted Leu-19+ effectors in cultures of TIL with 1000 U/ml of rIL-2 mediate lysis of autologous and allogeneic tumor cells. The CD3+Leu-19- cells, the main population in these cultures, do not mediate tumor lysis. To determine the phenotype of antitumor effectors in IL-2 cultures of TIL, cell sorting followed by functional assays are necessary.