Stimulation of lymphokine production and the expression of receptors for growth factors can be dissociated in AK-8, a line of CD4+, I-A-restricted, conalbumin-specific mouse T cells. When activated by antibodies specific for the T cell receptor (TcR; F23.1) or the CD3 complex (145-2C11) adsorbed to plastic culture wells, AK-8 cells produce lymphokines but are unable to proliferate. Proliferation takes place using the same stimuli upon addition of interleukin 1 (IL 1). Autocrine growth induced by anti-TcR, anti-CD3 or by antigen is dependent on IL 4 and not on IL 2 in this cell line, as shown by the effect of antibodies against IL 4 or the IL 2 receptor. Similarly to plastic-adsorbed antibodies, phorbol myristic acetate (PMA) or a combination of PMA and the calcium ionophore Ionomycin also induces secretion of growth factors without inducing proliferation, but in this case addition of IL 1 is ineffective in inducing AK-8 proliferation. When incubated with anti-TcR or anti-CD3 antibodies in soluble form these cells neither proliferate nor produce IL 4 even in the presence of IL 1. However, soluble antibodies in the presence of IL 1 induce enhanced expression of IL 2 receptors, as measured both by induction of responsiveness to exogenous IL 2 or flow cytometry analysis using anti-IL 2 receptor antibodies. These results show that the pathways for the activation of growth factor receptor expression and the induction of lymphokine secretion can be differentiated in this cell line using anti-TcR or anti-CD3 reagents in different physical forms. The transmembrane signals delivered by these different forms of anti-receptor antibody may allow an understanding of these distinct requirements for T cell growth.