It has generally been assumed that most if not all CTL specific for vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV)-infected cells recognize the viral glycoprotein (G), an integral membrane protein abundantly expressed on infected cell surfaces. Using recombinant vaccinia viruses containing copies of cloned VSV genes to examine CTL recognition of VSV, we have confirmed that G is recognized by VSV-specific CTL. More interestingly, however, we have also found that nucleocapsid protein (N), an internal virion protein, can be detected on infected cell surfaces using mAb, and serves as a major target antigen for VSV-specific CTL. In contrast to the highly serotype-specific recognition of G, N is recognized by a major population of CTL able to lyse cells infected with either the Indiana or New Jersey VSV serotypes. Using target cells expressing a cloned MHC class I gene, we could directly show that CTL recognition of N occurs in the context of the MHC Ld molecule.