CD8hi CD57+ T cells have previously been described as effector memory T cells with minimal expansion capacity and high susceptibility to activation-induced cell death. In contrast, we demonstrate here that CD8hi CD57+ T cells are capable of rapid expansion using multiple techniques including [(3)H]thymidine uptake, flow cytometric bead-based enumeration and standard haemocytometer counting. Previous reports can be explained by marked inhibition of activation-induced expansion and increased 7-amino-actinomycin D uptake by CD8hi CD57+ T cells following treatment with CFSE, a dye previously used to measure their proliferation, combined with specific media requirements for the growth of this cell subset. The ability of CD8hi CD57+ T cells to further differentiate is highlighted by a distinct cytokine profile late after activation that includes the unexpected release of high levels of interleukin 5. These data indicate that CD8hi CD57+ T cells should not be considered as "end-stage" effector T cells incapable of proliferation, but represent a highly differentiated subset capable of rapid division and exhibiting novel functions separate from their previously described cytotoxic and IFN-gamma responses.