We have observed that a peptide corresponding to an immunodominant epitope of the HIV-1 envelope protein recognized by class I MHC-restricted CD8+ CTL can also induce T cell help for itself. The help is necessary for restimulation of CTL precursors in vitro with peptide alone in the absence of exogenous lymphokines, can be removed by depletion of CD4+ T cells, and can be replaced by exogenous IL-2. Whereas the CTL in BALB/c or B10. D2 mice are restricted by the class I molecule Dd, the Th cells are restricted by the class II molecule Ad, and the help can be blocked by anti-Ad mAb. To examine the genetic regulation of the induction of help, we studied B10.A mice that share the class I Dd molecule, but have different class II molecules, Ak and Ek. Spleen cells of immune B10.A mice behave like CD4-depleted BALB/c spleen cells in that they cannot be restimulated in vitro by the peptide alone, but can with peptide plus IL-2. Therefore, in the absence of exogenous lymphokines, peptide-specific help is necessary for restimulation with this immunodominant CTL epitope peptide, and in H-2d mice, this peptide stimulates help for itself as well as CTL. We speculate on the implications of these findings for the immunodominance of this peptide in H-2d mice, and for the selective advantage of pairing certain class I and class II molecules in an MHC haplotype.