We have characterized the murine homolog of the HIV-co-receptor CXCR4 during T cell development and activation. Our data demonstrate that this chemokine receptor, although highly conserved between human and mouse, is differently expressed and regulated in both species. Mitogenic activation resulted in an increase of surface CXCR4 on murine T cells within 2 days, whereas the receptor was strongly down-regulated on human T cells during this period. Furthermore, intraperitoneal immunization of mice resulted in a strong increase of splenic and mesenteric cytotoxic T cells co-expressing CXCR4. It is interesting that, on thymocytes, expression of CXCR4 is restricted to CD4+CD8+ cells. Stromal cell-derived factor-1alpha, a natural ligand of CXCR4, induced chemotaxis of thymocytes and was found to counteract dexamethasone-induced apoptosis to a certain extent in these cells. Thus, our data show that expression of CXCR4 is tightly controlled on murine T cells and indicate that this highly conserved chemokine receptor might serve different functions in humans and mice.