Interaction between systemic immune cells with cells of the blood-brain barrier is a central step in development of CNS-directed immune responses. Endothelial cells are the first cells of the blood-brain barrier encountered by migrating lymphocytes. To investigate the antigen-presenting capacity of human adult brain endothelial cells (HBECs), we used HBECs derived from surgically resected temporal lobe tissue, cocultured with allogeneic peripheral blood derived CD4+ T lymphocytes. HBECs in response to IFN-gamma, but not under basal culture conditions, expressed HLA-DR, B7.1 and B7.2 antigens. Despite such up-regulation, these IFN-gamma-treated HBECs, in contrast to human microglia and PB monocytes, did not sustain allogeneic CD4+ cell proliferation, supported only low levels of IL-2 and IFN-gamma production, and did not stimulate IL-2 receptor expression. CD4+ T cell proliferation and increased IL-2 receptor expression could be obtained by addition of IL-2. Our data suggests that, although HBECs cannot alone support T cell proliferation and cytokine production, HBECs acting in concert with cytokines derived from a proinflammatory environment could support such a response.