This report examines the requirement for infectious virus in the induction of influenza virus-specific cytotoxic T cells. Infectious influenza virus was found to be highly efficient at generating both primary and secondary cytotoxic T-cell response in vivo. Inactivated influenza virus however, failed to stimulate a detectable cytotoxic T-cell response in vivo even at immunizing doses 10(5)-10(6)-fold higher than the minimum stimulatory dose of infectious virus. Likewise inactivated virus failed to sensitize target cells for T cell-mediated lysis in vitro but could stimulate a specific cytotoxic response from primed cells in vitro. Possible requirements for the induction of virus-specific cytotoxic T-cell responses are discussed in light of these observations and those of other investigators.