4-1BB (CD137) is a costimulatory member of the TNFR family expressed on activated T cells. Its ligand, 4-1BBL, is expressed on activated APC. In the mouse, CD8 T cells are preferentially activated by agonistic anti-murine 4-1BB Abs. However, murine 4-1BBL can stimulate both CD4 and CD8 T cells. To date, there are only limited data on the effects of 4-1BBL on human T cell responses. To further understand the role of 4-1BBL in human T cell responses, we compared human CD4 and CD8 T cell responses to transfected human 4-1BBL plus TCR-mediated stimulation. Both human CD4 and CD8 T cells responded to 4-1BBL. The presence of 4-1BBL on the APC led to increased expansion, cytokine production, and the development of cytolytic effector function by human T cells. In unfractionated T cell cultures, CD4 and CD8 T cells could expand to a similar extent in response to signals through the TCR and 4-1BB, as measured by CFSE labeling and by quantitating T cell numbers in the cultures. In contrast to the results with total T cells, isolated CD8 T cells produced less IL-2 and expanded to a lesser extent than isolated CD4 T cells responding to 4-1BBL. Thus, 4-1BBL is most effective when both CD4 and CD8 T cells are included in the cultures. CD28 and 4-1BB were found to synergize in the induction of IL-2 by human T cells, and CTLA-Ig partially blocked 4-1BBL-dependent IL-2 production. However, a portion of the 4-1BBL-mediated effects were independent of CD28-B7 interaction.