Patients with the primary immunodeficiency X-linked lymphoproliferative disease (XLP), which is caused by mutations in SH2D1A, are highly susceptible to Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection. Nonetheless, some XLP patients demonstrate less severe clinical manifestations after primary infection. SH2D1A encodes the adaptor molecule SLAM-associated protein (SAP), which is expressed in T and natural killer cells and is required for cytotoxicity against B cells, the reservoir for EBV. It is not known why the clinical presentation of XLP is so variable. In this study, we report for the first time the occurrence of somatic reversion in XLP. Reverted SAP-expressing cells resided exclusively within the CD8(+) T cell subset, displayed a CD45RA(-)CCR7(-) effector memory phenotype, and were maintained at a stable level over time. Importantly, revertant CD8(+) SAP(+) T cells, but not SAP(-) cells, proliferated in response to EBV and killed EBV-infected B cells. As somatic reversion correlated with EBV infection, we propose that the virus exerts a selective pressure on the reverted cells, resulting in their expansion in vivo and host protection against ongoing infection.