Fusion proteins present in leukemic cells frequently contain a new amino acid at the fusion point. We tested whether a peptide (BCR1/25) encompassing the fusion region of the hybrid molecule pml/RAR alpha, which is selectively expressed by acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) cells, can be recognized by human T lymphocytes in vitro. CD4+ lymphocytes, at both polyclonal and clonal level, recognized peptide BCR1/25 in an HLA-DR--restricted fashion on presentation by autologous antigen-presenting cell (APC) or by APC expressing the HLA-DR11 restricting molecule. Control peptides corresponding to the normal pml and RAR alpha proteins were not recognized. One clone (DEG5) also exerted a high and specific cytotoxicity against autologous cells pulsed with BCR1/25. The autologous DE LCL containing a transduced pml/RAR alpha fusion gene and expressing a bcr1 type of the pml/RAR alpha hybrid protein induced the proliferation of DE anti-BCR1/25 T cell clones. It is concluded that the bcr1 type-pml/RAR alpha fusion protein of APL contains an antigenic site, absent from the normal parent molecules and recognized by human CD4+ lymphocytes.