CD8+ T cells are key effectors of the immune response against human cytomegalovirus (HCMV). A number of HCMV-derived CD8+ T cell epitopes are known. Using epitope prediction and subsequent testing for interferon-gamma responses by the ELISPOT assay, we identified an optimal human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-A*0201-restricted CD8+ T cell epitope derived from the major immediate early 1 (IE-1) gene product. As many as one-third of HLA-A*0201-positive, HCMV-seropositive donors make responses to this peptide (residues 316-324 [VLEETSVML]), which can exceed responses against a published immunodominant pp65 epitope (residues 495-503 [NLVPMVATV]). Major histocompatibility complex peptide tetramer staining facilitated detailed phenotypic analyses and revealed populations that resemble terminally differentiated effector cells (CD57+ and CD28-), with considerable restriction in T cell receptor beta-chain variable region use. The results confirm that, although pp65 is a major target for CD8+ T cells, the IE-1 protein may itself stimulate comparable responses in some persons.