Murine AIDS (MAIDS) is induced by a mixture of retroviruses, of which a replication defective virus is the proximal agent of disease. This defective virus harbors a single intact gene that encodes an aberrant gag polyprotein. Certain mouse strains are genetically resistant to MAIDS, with several genes, including H-2Dd, contributing to this resistance. Because MHC class I gene products present intracellular Ags to CTL, recombinant viruses were used to determine whether gag-specific CTLs mediate the genetic linkage between H-2Dd and resistance. Interestingly, while genetically resistant BALB/cByJ and C57BL/KsJ mice (H-2d) generated gag-specific CD8+ CTLs, a similar response was not detected in susceptible BALB.B and C57BL/6J mice (H-2b). However, this CTL response does not appear to be responsible for genetic resistance because 1) a vigorous CTL response could also be generated by susceptible (C57BL/6 x BALB/cBy) F1 mice and 2) the relevant epitope is H-2Kd restricted.