CD40 is a B-cell surface molecule that has been shown to induce B-cell growth upon ligation with monoclonal antibodies. This report shows that triggering via CD40 is essential for the activation of resting B cells by helper T cells (Th). A soluble fusion protein of CD40 and human immunoglobulin, CD40-Ig, inhibited the induction of B-cell cycle entry, proliferation, and differentiation by activated Th1 and Th2. The ligand for CD40 was identified as a 39-kDa membrane protein that was selectively expressed on activated Th. A monoclonal antibody specific for the 39-kDa protein inhibited CD40-Ig binding and also inhibited the activation of B cells by Th. These data indicate that the 39-kDa membrane protein expressed on activated Th is a binding protein for CD40 and functions to transduce the signal for Th-dependent B-cell activation.