The CD4 (T4) antigen was originally described as a phenotypic marker specific for helper T cells, and has recently been shown to be the receptor for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Functional studies using monoclonal antibodies directed at CD4 and major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II molecules led to the suggestion that CD4 binds to the MHC class II molecules expressed on stimulator cells, enhancing T-cell responsiveness by increasing the avidity of T cell-stimulator cell interaction and/or by transmitting a positive intracellular signal. But recent evidence that antibodies to CD4 inhibit T-cell responsiveness in the absence of any putative ligand for CD4 has been interpreted as suggesting that antibody-mediated inhibition may involve the transmission of a negative signal via the CD4 molecule instead. We have infected a murine T-cell hybridoma that produces interleukin 2 (IL-2) in response to human class II HLA-DR antigens with a retroviral vector containing CD4 cDNA. The resulting CD4-expressing hybridoma cell lines produce 6- to 20-fold more IL-2 in response to HLA-DR antigens than control cell lines. Furthermore, when antigen levels are suboptimal, the response of the cell lines is entirely CD4-dependent. The data presented here clearly demonstrate that CD4 can enhance T-cell responsiveness and may be crucial in the response to suboptimal levels of antigen.