Cell proliferation and cell death must be closely regulated to maintain the integrity of the immune system during the lifetime of multicellular organisms. Proliferative expansion of lymphoid cells is required for effective immune responses against invading microorganisms. However, following infection eradication, expanded effector cells must be eliminated to prevent non-adaptive accumulation of cells. Therefore, higher vertebrates have developed an extensive network of signal transduction pathways that allow integration of cell survival and cell death stimuli. This network functions to ensure the controlled activation and expansion of cells during an immune response and the deletion of lymphoid cells that are no longer needed at the end of an immune response. Extracellular signals appear to control both mechanisms. Ultimate responses are integrated through cell surface receptors that are linked to intracellular signaling cascades. These signal transduction pathways converge to regulate cell fate at both transcriptional and post-transcriptional levels. In this review, the role of pathways triggered by TNFR-related molecules that determine the fate of lymphoid cells during development and activation is summarized.