Negative co-stimulatory signaling mediated via cell surface programmed death (PD)-1 expression modulates T and B cell activation and is involved in maintaining peripheral tolerance. In this study, we examined the effects of a fully human PD-1-abrogating antibody on the in vitro expansion and function of human vaccine-induced CD8+ T cells (CTLs) specific for the melanoma-associated antigens glycoprotein 100 (gp100) and melanoma antigen recognized by T cells (MART)-1. PD-1 blockade during peptide stimulation augmented the absolute numbers of CD3+, CD4+, CD8+ and gp100/MART-1 MHC:peptide tetramer+ CTLs. This correlated with increased frequencies of IFN-gamma-secreting antigen-specific cells and augmented lysis of gp100+/MART-1+ melanoma targets. PD-1 blockade also increased the fraction of antigen-specific CTLs that recognized melanoma targets by degranulation, suggesting increased recognition efficiency for cognate peptide. The increased frequencies and absolute numbers of antigen-specific CTLs by PD-1 blockade resulted from augmented proliferation, not decreased apoptosis. Kinetic analysis of cytokine secretion demonstrated that PD-1 blockade increased both type-1 and type-2 cytokine accumulation in culture without any apparent skewing of the cytokine repertoire. These findings have implications for developing new cancer immunotherapy strategies.