We localized peptide epitopes within the Chlamydia trachomatis (Ct) major outer membrane protein (MOMP) that activate human T cells. T-MOMP' cells were prepared by culturing PBL from 38 humans who had Ct infections in the presence of Ct serovar E MOMP. Some epitopes were first localized by quantifying proliferative responses of T-MOMP' cells to overlapping MOMP segments (sixths) that were produced in Escherichia coli. Further localization was achieved by using overlapping synthetic 16-22 mers that spanned stimulatory MOMP sixths as Ags. The APCs used were human B cell lines (LCL) that were matched or mismatched with respect to HLA class II alleles of the T-MOMP' cells. T cell epitopes were detected in 18 Ct serovar E MOMP 16-22 mers and were presented in association with HLA-DR1, -7, -13, -17, HLA-DRw52, HLA-DQ3 and at least two from among HLA-DR4, -8, -11, -14, -18, in probable addition to HLA-DP4. Peptide 249-265 stimulated T-MOMP' cells from 83% of the subjects; studies with overlapping 11-13 mers spanning peptide 249-265 revealed at least six epitopes presented with different HLA-class II allotypes. Diverse T-MOMP' cultures responded to between 2 and 7 MOMP epitopes. All but 1 of the 23 epitopes localized to date are distributed among four MOMP constant segments. T-MOMP' cells from subjects infected with serovars other than E also responded.