The initial requirement for the emergence of CMV-specific CD8(+) T cells is poorly understood. Mice deficient in the cosignaling TNF superfamily member, 4-1BB, surprisingly developed exaggerated early CD8(+) T-cell responses to mouse CMV (MCMV). CD8(+) T cells directed against acute MCMV epitopes were enhanced, demonstrating that 4-1BB naturally antagonizes these primary populations. Paradoxically, 4-1BB-deficient mice displayed reduced accumulation of memory CD8(+) T cells that expand during chronic/latent infection. Importantly, the canonical TNF-related ligand, 4-1BBL, promoted the accumulation of these memory CD8(+) T cells, whereas suppression of acute CD8(+) T cells was independent of 4-1BBL. These data highlight the dual nature of the 4-1BB/4-1BBL system in mediating both stimulatory and inhibitory cosignaling activities during the generation of anti-MCMV immunity.