CD8(+) T-cell responses to three human cytomegalovirus (CMV) pp65 epitopes were studied in panels of healthy seropositive HLA-A*02/HLA-B*07 individuals, and HLA-A*02 donors mismatched for HLA-B*07. The majority of the latter had significant responses to a HLA-A*02-restricted epitope within the CMV pp65 antigen. By contrast, the strongest responses to CMV in the first group were to HLA-B*07-restricted epitopes. Similar immunodominance of HLA-B*07 over HLA-A*02 was found in two immunocompromised HIV-infected HLA-A*02/HLA-B*07 patients, and in the reconstituting immune system of three stem cell transplant recipients. In vitro stimulation of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) from two immunocompetent HLA-A*02/HLA-B*07 individuals indicated that cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) precursors specific for both HLA-A*02 and HLA-B*07 restricted epitopes were present and could be expanded by stimulation with the cognate peptides. However, if stimulation was performed by antigen presenting cells infected with recombinant vaccinia expressing full-length native pp65, only HLA-B*07 epitope-specific cells were seen. In one patient the HLA-B*07 dominance was partially broken by using recombinant vaccinia expressing ubiquitinated pp65, suggesting that enhanced protein processing can reveal weaker immune responses. Our results indicate that CMV-specific cellular immune responses restricted by HLA-B*07 dominate those restricted by HLA-A*02 in both immunocompetent and immunocompromised individuals. This may have significant consequences for the design of epitope-specific vaccines.