Recognition of the melanoma Ag gp100 by tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TIL) in vitro has been correlated with tumor regression in patients with metastatic melanoma treated with the adoptive transfer of TIL plus IL-2. Three common gp100 epitopes have been identified that are recognized in the context of HLA-A2 by TIL from different patients: G9154 (KTWGQYWQV), G9209 (ITDQVPFSV), and G9280 (YLEPGPVTA). Upon stimulation with these peptides, melanoma-reactive CTL could be induced in vitro from PBL of some HLA-A2+ melanoma patients. However, numerous restimulations were required, and specific reactivity could not be generated in many patients. Therefore, to enhance the immunogenicity of gp100 peptides, amino acid substitutions were introduced into G9154, G9209, and G9280 at HLA-A*0201-binding anchor positions, but not at TCR contact residues, to increase peptide class I MHC-binding affinity. Several modified gp100 peptides bound with greater affinity to HLA-A*0201 than unmodified peptides and were recognized by TIL specific for the natural epitopes. These peptides were used to sensitize PBL from HLA-A2+ melanoma patients in vitro using peptide-pulsed autologous PBMC as stimulators. After five weekly restimulations with either the native G9209 or G9280 peptide, melanoma-reactive CTL could only be induced from two of seven patients. However, amino acid substitutions in these peptides enabled the induction of melanoma-reactive CTL from all seven patients. These results suggest that modified gp100 peptides may be more immunogenic than the native epitopes, and may be useful in immunotherapy protocols for patients with melanoma.