To assess the immunodominance patterns of HIV-1-specific cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) responses and the contribution of these responses against the peptides scanning optimal epitopes in chronic infection, we test the HIV-1-specific CTL responses against a panel of 413 overlapping peptides spanning HIV-1 Asian B sequence, including 147 peptides corresponding to optimal clade B epitopes in 49 chronically HIV-1 infected individuals by interferon-γ Elispot assay. A large variation in the recognition of peptides restricted by the same HLA class I allele is presented. Some epitopes are targeted frequently by individuals while other epitopes restricted by the same allele are rarely recognized in our research. HLA-B35 and HLA-A03 rather than other HLA alleles contribute greatly to total virus-specific CTL responses. Furthermore, there is a significant inverse correlation between the total contribution of HIV-1-specific CTL responses restricted by different HLA alleles to virus-specific immune responses and viral load in the individuals during advanced infection (P=0.002, r=-0.549). The peptides targeted by individuals have significantly lower entropy compared with those not targeted but restricted by the same HLA class I alleles (P < 0.05) in 49 individuals infected by HIV-1, especially the advanced infection subgroup (P=0.044). These data demonstrate that the consistent immunodominance patterns of HIV-1-specific CTL responses of Chinese HIV-1 infected individuals and an inverse correlation between the relative contribution of responses restricted by HLA alleles and viral load, which indicates the important protective effect of optimal epitopes against slow disease progression even in advanced infection.