Alloreactive T lymphocytes are central mediators of graft-versus-host disease and allograft rejection. A public CTL clonotype with specificity for the alloantigens HLA-B*4402 and B*4405 is often expanded to large numbers in healthy HLA-B*0801(+) individuals, driven by cross-reactive stimulation with the common, persistent herpesvirus EBV. Since such alloreactive memory CTL expansions have the potential to influence transplantation outcome, altered peptide ligands (APLs) of the target HLA-B*0801-binding EBV peptide, FLRGRAYGL, were screened as specific antagonists for this immunodominant clonotype. One APL, FLRGRFYGL, exerted powerful antagonism of a prototypic T cell clone expressing this immunodominant TCR when costimulated with target cells presenting HLA-B*0801(FLRGRAYGL). Significantly, this APL also reduced the lysis of allogeneic target cells expressing HLA-B*4402 by up to 99%. The affinities of the agonist and antagonist complexes for the public TCR, measured using solution and solid-phase assays, were 8 and 138 muM, respectively. Surprisingly, the half-life of the agonist and antagonist complexes was similar, yet the association rate for the antagonist complex was significantly slower. These observations were further supported by structural studies that suggested a large conformational hurdle was required to ligate the immunodominant TCR to the HLA-B*0801 antagonist complex. By defining an antagonist APL against an immunodominant alloreactive TCR, these findings raise the prospect of exploiting such peptides to inhibit clinical alloreactivity, particularly against clonal T cell expansions that react with alloantigens.