In a search for potentially tumour-specific MHC-class-II-restricted antigens, the immunogenicity of endogenous peptides that had been eluted from HLA-DR molecules of the human melanoma cell line FM3 (HLA-DRB1*02x, DRB1*0401) was tested in vitro. Two 16-mers representing gp100 positions 44-59, and annexin II positions 208-223 bound well to isolated DRB1*0401 molecules and are discussed here. HLA-DR-matched normal donors' T cells were cultured with peptide-pulsed artificial antigen-presenting cells (CHO cells cotransfected with genes for HLA-DRB1*0401 and CD80 and coexpressing high levels of both human molecules). Specific sensitization was achieved against both peptides, as measured in assays of autocrine proliferation and interleukin-2 secretion. Moreover, responses to native autologous melanoma cells but not to autologous B cells were also observed. In view of the expression of fas by the activated T cells and of fas ligand by the melanoma cells, blockade of potential fas/ fas-ligand interactions was undertaken using monoclonal antibodies (mAb). The antagonistic fas-specific mAb M3, but not the fas agonist M33, caused a markedly enhanced T cell response to FM3 cells. These results demonstrate that synthetic peptide antigens are able to sensitize T cells in vitro for effective MHC-class-II-restricted recognition of melanoma cells.