Experiments were conducted to determine whether human lymphokine-activated killer (LAK) cells are cytotoxic against cells infected with Toxoplasma gondii. Nylon wool nonadherent (NWNA) peripheral blood lymphocytes, as well as purified natural killer cell (NK) (CD3- CD16+ CD56+) and T (CD3+ CD16- CD56-) cells obtained from five healthy T. gondii seronegative volunteers exhibited minimal cytotoxic activity against T. gondii-infected cells. When standard LAK (S-LAK) cell preparations were induced by incubation of NWNA cells with recombinant interleukin 2, induction of remarkable cytotoxic activity against T. gondii-infected cells. When standard in LAK cell preparations from each of the volunteers. The phenotype of the LAK precursor and effector cells varied depending on the target cell used. Whereas the precursor and the effector cells of most of the LAK activity against K562 and Daudi cells were cells with NK phenotype, when T. gondii-infected cells were used as targets, both cells with NK and T cell phenotypes were precursors and effectors of the lysis. When cytotoxic activity of S-LAK cells was compared with the activity of adherent LAK (A-LAK) cells, A-LAK cells displayed higher cytotoxic activity against T. gondii-infected cells, as well as against K562 and Daudi cells. Cold target inhibition experiments suggested that there is a subset of LAK effector cells capable of lysing both T. gondii-infected cells and Daudi cells, whereas other subsets preferentially or exclusively lyse one of these target cells.