Self-thyroid epithelial cell (TEC)-reactive CD8+ and CD4+ T cell lines were established by culturing T cells that infiltrate in autoimmune thyroiditis lesions. We investigated the properties of CD8+ T cell lines and clones in comparison with previously characterized CD4+ T cell lines/clones. Although the recognition of self-Ag by anti-TEC CD4+ T cell lines/clones required the cooperation of syngeneic spleen cells as APC, a representative CD8+ line (N4C) was stimulated with syngeneic TEC in the absence of APC. Precise analysis of MHC restriction using N4C-derived clones revealed that CD8+ clones recognize self-Ag on TEC in the context of class I MHC molecules. Most CD8+ clones were also found to express TCR with V beta specificities that were different from those observed for anti-TEC CD4+ clones. N4C cells produced IL-2, IFN-gamma, and TNF-alpha beta, but not IL-4 and IL-5 after stimulation with TEC, thus exhibiting the profile of lymphokine production similar to that expressed by CD4+ Th1 on one hand, but on the other, they showed the functional property that has not been observed for anti-TEC CD4+ clones. Namely, they elicited appreciable levels of cytolytic effects on syngeneic TEC in a short-term (4-h) 51Cr release assay. Thus, these results indicate that self-TEC-reactive CD8+ T cell lines/clones recognize Ag directly on TEC in a class I MHC-restricted way so as to exhibit various functions including the Th1-like profile of lymphokine production and anti-TEC cytolysis. The results are also discussed in terms of the nature of self-Ag presented with class I MHC molecules on TEC, as well as the potential roles of anti-TEC CD8+ T cells in the pathogenesis of thyroiditis.