4-1BB (CDw137) and its ligand (4-1BBL) have been implicated in cellular immune responses. To further characterize the expression and function of 4-1BBL, we newly generated an anti-mouse 4-1BBL mAb (TKS-1), which can inhibit the interaction of 4-1BBL with 4-1BB. Flow cytometric analyses using TKS-1 and an anti-mouse 4-1BB mAb indicated that 4-1BB was inducible on both CD4(+) and CD8(+) splenic T cells by stimulation with immobilized anti-CD3 mAb, but 4-1BBL was not expressed on resting or activated T cells. 4-1BBL expression was inducible on splenic B cells by stimulation with anti-IgM antibody plus anti-CD40 mAb, on peritoneal macrophages by stimulation with lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and on splenic dendritic cells (DC) by stimulation with anti-CD40 mAb or LPS. Interestingly, splenic DC expressed 4-1BB constitutively, which was down-regulated by anti-CD40 stimulation. Co-culture of splenic DC with 4-1BBL-transfected cells or 4-1BBL-expressing tumor cell lines led to cytokine (IL-6 and IL-12) production and co-stimulatory molecule up-regulation by splenic DC, indicating that 4-1BBL can directly activate DC. Moreover, IL-12 production by anti-CD40-stimulated DC was partially inhibited by TKS-1. These results suggest that 4-1BB expressed on DC may be involved in DC activation through DC--tumor interaction and DC--DC interaction.