Antigen-specific T-helper (Th) lymphocytes are critical for the development of antiviral humoral responses and the expansion of cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL). Identification of relevant Th lymphocyte epitopes remains an important step in the development of an efficacious subunit peptide vaccine against equine infectious anemia virus (EIAV), a naturally occurring lentivirus of horses. This study describes Th lymphocyte reactivity in EIAV carrier horses to two proteins, p26 and p15, encoded by the relatively conserved EIAV gag gene. Using partially overlapping peptides, multideterminant and possibly promiscuous epitopes were identified within p26. One peptide was identified which reacted with peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) from all five EIAV-infected horses, and three other peptides were identified which reacted with PBMC from four of five EIAV-infected horses. Four additional peptides containing both CTL and Th lymphocyte epitopes were also identified. Multiple epitopes were recognized in a region corresponding to the major homology region of the human immunodeficiency virus, a region with significant sequence similarity to other lentiviruses including simian immunodeficiency virus, puma lentivirus, feline immunodeficiency virus, Jembrana disease virus, visna virus, and caprine arthritis encephalitis virus. PBMC reactivity to p15 peptides from EIAV carrier horses also occurred. Multiple p15 peptides were shown to be reactive, but not all infected horses had Th lymphocytes recognizing p15 epitopes. The identification of peptides reactive with PBMC from outbred horses, some of which encoded both CTL and Th lymphocyte epitopes, should contribute to the design of synthetic peptide or recombinant vector vaccines for EIAV.