To test whether unprimed CD8+ cells can recognize class I alloantigens presented selectively on non-bone marrow (BM)-derived cells, unprimed parental strain CD8+ cells were transferred to long-term parent-->F1 BM chimeras prepared with supralethal irradiation. Host class I expression in the chimeras was undetectable on BM-derived cells and, in spleen, was limited to low-level staining of vascular endothelium and moderate staining of follicular dendritic cells (a population of nonhemopoietic cells in germinal centers). Despite this restricted expression of antigen, acute blood-to-lymph recirculation of parental strain T cells through the chimeras led to selective trapping of 95% of CD8+ cells reactive to normal F1 spleen antigen presenting cells (APC) in vitro. Subsequently, a small proportion of the trapped cells entered cell division and gave rise to effector cells expressing strong host-specific CTL activity. The activation of host-specific CD8+ cells was also prominent in double-irradiated chimeras, and cell separation studies showed that the effector cells were generated from resting precursor cells rather than from memory-phenotype cells. It is suggested that the non-BM-derived cells in the chimeras acted as semiprofessional APC. These cells were nonimmunogenic for most host-reactive CD8+ cells but were capable of stimulating a small subset of high-affinity T cells. The possible relevance of the data to the prolonged immunogenicity of vascularized allografts in humans is discussed.