A human alloimmune cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) clone (4E4) was generated against the HLA-A2 molecule. Lysis of 51Cr-labeled HLA-A2 target cells was blocked by monoclonal antibodies (mAb), including mAb PA2.1 (anti-HLA-A2), mAb BB7.2 (anti-HLA-A2), mAb 4B (anti-HLA-A2-plus-A28), mAb MA2.1 (anti-HLA-A2-plus-B17), and mAb W6/32 (anti-HLA-A,B,C), which are directed against different serologic epitopes on the HLA-A2 molecule. However, HLA-A2 mutant lines lacking the serologic epitope recognized by mAb BB7.2 (anti-HLA-A2) were efficiently lysed by CTL 4E4. Thus, although mAb may block cytolysis, the HLA-A2 epitope recognized the 4E4 CTL clone is distinct from the HLA-A2-specific epitope recognized by serologic reagents. Moreover, analysis of HLA-A2 population variants revealed that only the predominant HLA-A2.1 subtype molecule was recognized by CTL 4E4. No cross-reactivity on other, biochemically related HLA-A2 population subtypes was observed, including HLA-A2.2 cells (Hill, CVE, ZYL, M7), HLA-A2.3 cells (TENJ, DK1), or HLA-A2.4 cells (CLA, KNE). This CTL clone appears to recognize a single epitope and, like monoclonal antibody counterparts, can be used to discriminate among immunogenic cellular and serologic epitopes on closely related HLA-A2 molecules. On the basis of the known sequence changes in mutant and subtype HLA-A2 molecules, it appears that the sequence spanning residues 147 to 157 may be critical for cellular recognition of this Class I MHC molecule.