FM1-43, a fluorescent styryl dye that penetrates into and stains membranes, was used to investigate kinetics of constitutive endocytosis and to visualize the fate of endocytic organelles in resting and activated human T lymphocytes. The rate of dye accumulation was strongly temperature dependent and approximately 10-fold higher in activated than in resting T cells. Elevation of cytosolic free Ca2+ concentration with thapsigargin or ionomycin further accelerated the rate of FM1-43 accumulation associated with cytosolic actin polymerization. Direct modulation of actin polymerization affected membrane trafficking. Actin condensation beneath the plasma membrane with calyculin A abolished FM1-43 internalization, whereas actin depolymerization with cytochalasin D had no effect. Photoconversion of DAB by FM1-43 revealed altered endocytic compartment targeting associated with T cell activation. Internalized cargo was carried to lysosome-like compartments in resting T cells and to multivesicular bodies (MVB) in activated T cells. Externalization of exosomes from MVB occurred commonly in activated but not in resting T cells. T cell exosomes contained raft-associated CD3 proteins, GM1 glycosphingolipids, and phosphatidylserine at the outer membrane leaflet. The present study demonstrates the utility of FM1-43 as a marker of membrane trafficking in T cells and reveals possible mechanisms of its modulation during T cell activation.