Spleen cells cultured with syngeneic trinitrophenyl (TNP)-modified stimulator cells display a cytotoxic effect against syngeneic TNP-modified targets, but not against modified targets from unrelated H-2 haplotypes. Targets that share the K and I region of the H-2 complex with the stimulator (or effector) cell are lysed to the same extent as the specific targets, while targets that share the I region only are not. When only the D region is shared, a weak cytotoxic effect is observed. Therefore, the stimulator (or effector) and target cell must share the K or D but not the I region of the H-2 complex in order for optimal cytotoxicity to occur. Spleen cells sensitized to irradiated TNP-modified H-2-allogeneic cells are cytotoxic to these specific cells. Coculture of F1 hybrid cells with irradiated TNP-modified parental cells result in a cytotoxic effect against only those specific parental cells and not TNP-modified cells from the other parent. The cytotoxic effect of the F1 effector cells in the cell-mediated lympholysis test is blocked by the addition of unlabeled TNP-modified targets that are H-2 syngeneic with the sensitizing parental strain, but not H-2 syngeneic with the other parental strain. These data demonstrate that the specificity of the effector cell in this syngeneic cytotoxicity system is directed against altered self H-2-controlled-gene products, rather than a requirement for sharing of histocompatibility genes between effector and target cell in order for lysis to occur. The role of H-2 antigens in determining the sensitivity of a target cell to T-cell-mediated lysis is discussed.