4-1BB ligand (4-1BBL; CD137L) is a member of the tumour necrosis factor superfamily expressed primarily on antigen presenting cells such as B cells, macrophages and dendritic cells. Its engagement with the receptor 4-1BB (CD137) has been shown to promote T-cell activation and regulate proliferation and survival of T cells. The role of the costimulatory molecule in multiple sclerosis (MS) remains unclear. In this study, the expression of 4-1BBL and soluble 4-1BBL (s4-1BBL) protein levels were analysed in peripheral blood of MS patients. Compared with healthy controls, MS patients had an increase in both plasma s4-1BBL protein levels and expression of 4-1BBL in CD14(+) monocytes. In contrast, myelin basic protein-reactive T-cell proliferation was not found to be inhibited by the use of an anti-4-1BBL antibody. The elevated s4-1BBL protein levels in the MS patients may function as a self-regulatory mechanism of 4-1BB/4-1BBL interaction and costimulation.