The entry of resting T cells into the G1 phase of the cell cycle after stimulation by mitogens is controlled by a series of biochemical events that are independent of growth factors. These events follow the initial signals stimulated through the engagement of the T-cell receptor and include activation of the cyclin-dependent kinases Cdk6, Cdk4, and Cdk2, as well as a transient phosphorylation of the retinoblastoma gene product (p110Rb) by one or several of these proteins. A progression signal such as that delivered by interleukin-2 then induces a second phase of Cdk6, Cdk4, and Cdk2 activation, along with sustained phosphorylation of p110Rb in the activated T cells. This second signal is required to carry the cells into the S phase and beyond. Quantitative and qualitative differences in the expression and activity of these proteins may be critical to maintain the delicate balance that is necessary to ensure the normal progression of T cells through the cell cycle.