CD8+ CTLs are essential for effective immune defense against intracellular microbes and neoplasia. CTLs recognize short peptide fragments presented in association with MHC class I (MHCI) molecules on the surface of infected or dysregulated cells. Ag recognition involves the binding of both TCR and CD8 coreceptor to a single ligand (peptide MHCI [pMHCI]). The TCR/pMHCI interaction confers Ag specificity, whereas the pMHCI/CD8 interaction mediates enhanced sensitivity to Ag. Striking biophysical differences exist between the TCR/pMHCI and pMHCI/CD8 interactions; indeed, the pMHCI/CD8 interaction can be >100-fold weaker than the cognate TCR/pMHCI interaction. In this study, we show that increasing the strength of the pMHCI/CD8 interaction by ∼15-fold results in nonspecific, cognate Ag-independent pMHCI tetramer binding at the cell surface. Furthermore, pMHCI molecules with superenhanced affinity for CD8 activate CTLs in the absence of a specific TCR/pMHCI interaction to elicit a full range of effector functions, including cytokine/chemokine release, degranulation and proliferation. Thus, the low solution binding affinity of the pMHCI/CD8 interaction is essential for the maintenance of CTL Ag specificity.