FBL-3 is a highly immunogenic murine leukemia of C57BL/6 origin induced by Friend murine leukemia virus (MuLV). Immunization of C57BL/6 mice with FBL-3 readily elicits CD8+ cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) capable of lysing FBL-3 as well as syngeneic leukemias induced by Moloney and Rauscher MuLV. The aim of this current study was to identify the immunogenic epitope(s) recognized by the FBL-3-specific CD8+ CTL. A series of FBL-3-specific CD8+ CTL clones were generated from C57BL/6 mice immunized to FBL-3. The majority of CTL clones (32 of 38) were specific for F-MuLV gag-encoded antigen. By using a series of recombinant vaccinia viruses expressing full-length and truncated F-MuLV gag genes, the antigenic epitope recognized by the FBL-3 gag-specific CTL clones, as well as by bulk-cultured CTL from spleens of mice immune to FBL-3, was localized to the leader sequence of gPr80gag protein. The precise amino acid sequence of the CTL epitope in the leader sequence was identified as CCLCLTVFL (positions 85-93) by examining lysis of targets incubated with a series of synthetic leader sequence peptides. No evidence of other CTL epitopes in the gPr80gag or Pr65gag core virion structural polyproteins was found. The identity of CCLCLTVFL as the target peptide was validated by showing that immunization with the peptide elicited CTL that lysed FBL-3. The CTL elicited by the Gag peptide also specifically lysed syngeneic leukemia cells induced by Moloney and Rauscher MuLV (MBL-2 and RBL-5). The transmembrane peptide was shown to be the major gag-encoded antigenic epitope recognized by bulk-cultured CTL derived from C57BL/6 mice immunized to MBL-2 or RBL-5. Thus, the CTL epitope of FBL-3 is localized to the transmembrane anchor domain of the nonstructural Gag polyprotein and is shared by leukemia/lymphoma cell lines induced by Friend, Moloney, and Rauscher MuLV.