In this report the use of surface-linkage to expand the potential experimental and therapeutic applications of single chain antibody (scFv) constructs is reviewed. A strategy for the generation and functional characterization of surface-linked scFvs that bind selectively to the T-cell proteins CD3epsilon, CD28, and CD152 (CTLA-4) is described in detail. Experimental examples are provided of the use of these constructs to study the positive and negative regulation of T-cell activation and to manipulate the in vivo immunogenicity of tumor cells. In addition, a novel system for Simultaneous T-cell Activation and Retroviral Transduction (START) is described in which retroviral packaging cells are rendered mitogenic for T lymphocytes by combined expression of surface-linked scFvs. Finally, the use of random mutagenesis and yeast surface display to increase the affinity and functional efficacy of scFv constructs is demonstrated.