Cell surface proteins of the tumor necrosis factor (TNF) family of receptors have been intimately involved in inducing T cell death. A feature of these family members that is less well studied is their ability to rescue T cells from apoptosis. One such member is 4-1BB; an activation induced surface receptor on CD4 and CD8 T cells. This study demonstrates that the costimulatory effects of 4-1BB, which was found to enhance clonal expansion, required cross-linking of the receptor. The survival of the activated CD8 T cells following expansion was not associated with an increase in Bcl-2 expression. Provided that 4-1BB signaling was present, the amplification of activated CD8 T cell growth in vivo was independent of CD28 ligation. In vivo clonal expansion of activated CD4 T cells, however, was not as responsive to 4-1BB cross-linking. Moreover, 4-1BB-induced expansion was comparable to that mediated by LPS which can incite multiple costimulatory signals. Furthermore, LPS-mediated growth and survival of superantigen (SAg) stimulated T cells appeared to be partially dependent on interactions between 4-1BB and 4-1BB ligand (4-1BBL).