In order to characterize T cell epitopes in the Plasmodium falciparum circumsporozoite (CS) protein sequence, we isolated T cell clones, from non-immune donors, which reacted with synthetic peptides corresponding to two predicted CS protein T cell epitopes. Peptide CS.T3 (corresponding to a non-polymorphic region of the CS protein, residues 378-398) was recognized in association with either DR2 or DRw9 restriction elements. T cell clones recognizing CS.T3 also reacted with the sporozoite-derived CS protein. Peptide CS.T2 corresponds to a polymorphic region (residues 325-341) of the CS protein. Unlike the CS.T3-specific clones, the CS.T2-specific clones did not recognize the CS protein. Since the CS.T2 peptide includes residues which are polymorphic in different P. falciparum isolates, we investigated whether these residues were critical for recognition of the peptide. We show here that a single amino acid substitution at a position of the CS protein which shows genetic polymorphism affects recognition of the sequence by human T cells. The implications of these data for malaria vaccine development are discussed.