Spleen cells sensitized against trinitrophenyl (TNP)-modified stimulator cells displayed a cytotoxic effect against syngeneic TNP-modified but not dinitrophenyl (DNP)-modified target cells. The same finding was observed in the opposite direction; that is, effector cells sensitized against DNP-modified stimulator cells did not cross kill TNP-modified targets. The specificity of the anti-TNP effector cells was confirmed in a cold target competition assay. Presensitization in vivo with hapten-modified cells followed by rechallenge and testing in vitro did not alter the specificity of the response between the haptens. These data indicate that the receptor(s) on the cytotoxic T cell can distinguish between two closely related haptenic molecules.

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