In view of recent studies on the mechanisms of the survival of peripheral memory T cells, we tested the biologic role of pectate lyase, a pectin-degrading enzyme, as the cross-reactive antigen required for the recurring survival signals for human T cells specific for Cha o 1, a pollen allergen molecule of the Japanese cypress. We determined a 16-mer epitope peptide for the T-cell clone, and prepared synthetic oligopeptides of homologous regions in putative pectate lyase of other plants. Of these homologous peptides, ZePel (Zinnia elegans), ban 17 (banana), and Amb a 1.1 (short ragweed) induced strong proliferative responses of the Cha o 1-specific T-cell clone in vitro. In addition, suboptimal doses of peptide homologs derived from banana and short ragweed enhanced the survival potency of this T-cell clone without detectable proliferative responses to the peptides. When there was no antigen stimulation, the T-cell clone decreased in viable cell number and lost antigen-specific proliferation activity on day 6 during in vitro incubation. On the other hand, T-cell clones incubated with these survival-inducing peptides maintained proliferative activity to Cha o 1 even on day 9. Serum derived from the donor patient did not contain detectable levels of IgE specific to banana or short ragweed by CAP-RAST. These results show that human T cells specific for pollen allergen seem to use cross-reactive pectate lyase peptides to deliver survival signals even in the absence of pollen allergen, and memory T cells maintained in such a manner might be functioning at the onset of allergic pollinosis, although pollen allergens are seasonal.