It has been widely accepted that T cell activation requires two signals; one from the binding of the antigen/major histocompatibility complex to the T-cell receptor (TCR)/CD3 complex and the other from the interaction between a surface molecule on antigen presenting cells and its receptor on T cells. The second signal is considered as co-stimulatory and the B7/CD28 pair has been well studied as a prototype. Recently 4-1BB (CD137) has been characterized as another co-stimulatory molecule for T cell activation. However, unlike the CD28/B7 pair, 4-1BB and its ligand 4-1BBL constitute a member of the tumor necrosis factor (TNF) receptor/TNF pair superfamily. The signaling mechanism of 4-1BB has not been revealed in detail. To investigate whether 4-1BB takes the signaling pathways analogous to those for TNF receptors, we generated polyclonal antibodies against human 4-1BB and 4-1BBL and established stable transfectants of the receptor and the ligand with a high level of cell surface expression. Over-expression of h4-1BB was found to result in the activation of c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) in the human embryonic kidney cell line 293. In T cells, it has been previously demonstrated that JNK activation requires dual signals such as the ligation of TCR/CD3 complex plus CD28 co-stimulation or PMA plus ionomycin. The JNK activation by 4-1BB in Jurkat T cells was also found to require stimulation of the TCR/CD3 complex, consistent with the notion that 4-1BB functions as a co-stimulatory molecule for T cell activation.