CD40 ligand (CD40L) is a 33 kDa type II glycoprotein which is transiently expressed on the surface of T cells following activation. The demonstration that signals delivered by CD40L are essential for the process of affinity maturation and immunoglobulin isotype switching following antigenic challenge came from the study of X-linked hyper-IgM patients whose T cells cannot express functional CD40L. While some of the biological activities of CD40L, especially on B cells, can be mimicked by monoclonal antibodies (MAb) specific for CD40, it is becoming increasingly clear that CD40L also mediates various functional effects on other cell types. Not only are there distinctions between the activities of CD40L and CD40 MAb, but the manner in which CD40 is ligated appears to play an important part in the biological outcome of signaling through this receptor. In this review, we compare and contrast the activities which can currently be ascribed to CD40L and CD40 MAb and consider the role that ligand oligomerization plays in CD40-mediated signal transduction.