Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) cells multiply in secondary lymphoid tissue, but the mechanisms leading to their proliferation are still uncertain. In addition to B-cell receptor (BCR)-triggered signals, other microenvironmental factors might well be involved. In proliferation centers, leukemic B cells are in close contact with CD4(+)CD40L(+) T cells. Therefore, we here dissected the signals provided by autologous activated T cells (Tact) to CLL cells. Although the gene expression profile induced by Tact was highly similar to that induced by sole CD40 signaling, an obvious difference was that Tact induced proliferation of CLL cells. We determined that stimulation with only CD40L+IL-21 was sufficient to induce robust proliferation in CLL cells. We then defined an interleukin (IL)-21-induced gene signature in CLL, containing components of Janus kinase/signal transducer and activator of transcription and apoptosis pathways, and this signature could be detected in lymph node (LN) samples from patients. Finally, we could detect IL-21 RNA and protein in LN, and IL-21 production ex vivo by LN CD4(+)CXCR5(+) follicular helper T cells. These results indicate that in addition to BCR signaling, activated T cells might contribute to CLL cell proliferation via CD40 and IL-21. Targeting these signaling pathways might offer new venues for treatment of CLL.