The interaction of CD8+CTL with epithelial layers is an important but poorly defined aspect of organ allograft rejection. We herein report that CD103 (formerly alpha E integrin), a known receptor for the epithelial cell-specific ligand E-cadherin, is expressed by a major subset of CD8 + CTL elicited in response to allogeneic renal epithelial cells (REC). In contrast, CD103 was expressed poorly on CD8 + CTL generated in the conventional manner by stimulation with allogeneic leukocytes, although expression could be dramatically up-regulated by supplementing cultures with REC or exogenous TGF-beta 1. That TGF-beta controls the expression of CD103 on CD8+ CTL was further supported by the capacity of anti-TGF-beta mAb to block the generation of such cells in anti-REC cultures. Clonal analyses of anti-REC cultures revealed that individual CD8+ CTL clones were discretely CD103+ or CD103-, nd maintained their respective phenotypes independently of the cell type used for clonal restimulation. In a mouse model of graft-vs-host disease, 16.4 +/- 2.7% of CD8 cells that infiltrated host kidneys were CD103+ (n = 4). CD8 kidney-infiltrating lymphocytes were predominantly of donor origin and displayed an activated/memory phenotype (CD62L-, CD44high), consistent with expression of CD103 on a CD8 effector subset elicited in vivo following allogeneic transplantation. Taken together, the present data demonstrate that CD103 identifies a novel CD8 effector subset and, moreover, that such cells may comprise a significant component of the response to allogeneic tissues. The potential for CD103+ CTL as an important effector mechanism in organ allograft rejection, and more generally, as a mechanistic basis for tissue-specific immune phenomena, is discussed.