A human dendritic cell-based assay used to monitor a T cell proliferation response to viral peptides in vitro is described. Dendritic cells and autologous CD4+ T cells were isolated from peripheral blood by a series of density-gradient centrifugations or magnetic bead separations (or both). Peptides corresponding to residues of the immediate early protein, IE62, of varicella-zoster virus (VZV) were used as stimulating antigens, and persons with no history of varicella and no humoral or cellular immunity to VZV served as naive donors for the assays. Three VZV-susceptible donors were tested, and all demonstrated an in vitro response to multiple VZV peptides. This assay has potential as a screen to establish the immunogenicity of viral antigens in vitro using T cells from naive donors.