The p56lck and p59fyn protein tyrosine kinases are important signal transmission elements in the activation of mature T lymphocytes by ligands to the T-cell antigen receptor (TCR)/CD3 complex. The lack of either kinase results in deficient early signaling events, and pharmacological agents that block tyrosine phosphorylation prevent T-cell activation altogether. After triggering of the TCR/CD3 complex, both kinases are moderately activated and begin to phosphorylate cellular substrates, but the molecular mechanisms responsible for these changes have remained unclear. We recently found that the p72syk protein tyrosine kinase is physically associated with the TCR/CD3 complex and is rapidly tyrosine phosphorylated and activated by receptor triggering also in T cells lacking p56lck. Here we examine the regulation of p72syk and its interaction with p56lck in transfected COS-1 cells. p72syk was catalytically active and heavily phosphorylated on its putative autophosphorylation site, Tyr-518/519. Mutation of these residues to phenylalanines abolished its activity in vitro and toward cellular substrates in vivo and reduced its tyrosine phosphorylation in intact cells by approximately 90%. Coexpression of lck did not alter the catalytic activity of p72syk, but the expressed p56lck was much more active in the presence of p72syk than when expressed alone. This activation was also seen as increased phosphorylation of cellular proteins. Concomitantly, p56lck was phosphorylated at Tyr-192 in its SH2 domain, and a Phe-192 mutant p56lck was no longer phosphorylated by p72syk. Phosphate was also detected in p56lck at Tyr-192 in lymphoid cells. These findings suggest that p56lck is positively regulated by the p72syk kinase.