Activating signals generated by members of the tumour necrosis factor receptor superfamily upon interaction with their cognate ligands play important roles in T-cell responses. Members of the tumour necrosis factor family namely 4-1BBL, OX40L, CD70, GITRL, LIGHT and CD30L have been described to function as costimulatory molecules by binding such receptors on T cells. Using our recently described system of T-cell stimulator cells we have performed the first study where all these molecules have been assessed and compared regarding their capacity to costimulate proliferation and cytokine production of human T cells. 4-1BBL, which we found to be the most potent molecule in this group, was able to mediate sustained activation and proliferation of human T cells. OX40L and CD70 were also strong inducers of T-cell proliferation, whereas the costimulatory capacity of human GITRL was significantly lower. Importantly CD30L and LIGHT consistently failed to act costimulatory on human T cells, and we therefore suggest that these molecules might be functionally distinct from the costimulatory members of this family.