In vitro work has defined the TNF receptor family member CD27 as a T and B cell co-stimulatory molecule. Its activity is governed by the transient availability of its TNF-like ligand CD70 on lymphocytes and dendritic cells. Recent studies, enforcing or abrogating CD27 function by genetic or protein intervention in mouse models have revealed key contributions of the CD27-CD70 system to effector and memory T cell formation, which is probably based on improved cell survival. The stimulatory effects of CD27 on B cell function appear to oppose those of CD70, which also has a signaling role. Targeting CD27-CD70 for therapy is attractive but should take into account the fact that constitutive CD27 stimulation culminates in lethal immunodeficiency.