Ag-specific, CD8 + CTLs clear influenza A viruses from the lung via granzyme (Gzm) and perforin-dependent mechanisms. Ex vivo analysis of perforin-Gzm mRNA profiles demonstrated substantial heterogeneity in patterns of effector mRNA transcription of CD8 + D b NP 366 - or D b PA 224 -specific CTL. The only difference between the two epitope-specific sets was apparent very early after infection with similar molecular profiles seen in peak primary and secondary responses and in long-term memory. Surprisingly, memory T cells also expressed a diverse pattern of effector mRNA profile with an emphasis on GzmB and, surprisingly, GzmK. This analysis thus defines how naive, effector, and memory T cells differ in cytotoxic potential and provides novel insight into the molecular signatures of effector molecules observed at various stages after infection.