This study addresses the relative importance of CD134 (OX40) and CD137 (4-1BB) in the costimulation of CD4+ and CD8+ T cells under comparable conditions of antigenic stimulation. We demonstrate that CD134 is capable of directly costimulating CD8+ T cells. However, costimulation of CD8+ T cells by CD134 is less potent than that triggered by CD137. The higher costimulatory activity of CD137, when compared with CD134, correlates well with its faster expression kinetics and higher levels on CD8+ T cells. Furthermore, induction of CD137 expression on CD8+ T cells is highly sensitive to low levels of TCR stimulation, which is in contrast with CD134. Conversely, CD134 is more effective than CD137 in costimulating CD4+ T cells. This, however, could not be attributed to differential expression. We also demonstrate that the transient nature of CD134 and CD137 expression on activated CD4+ T cells is the resultof proteolytic shedding. Consistent with the greater ability of CD137 to costimulate CD8+ T cells, stimulation of CD137 in vivo is considerably more effective than CD134 in augmenting anti-tumor immune responses. Therefore, agents that stimulate signaling via CD137 are likely to be more useful in clinical conditions where highly effective CD8+ CTL responses are required.