CD40 activation is critical for B-cell function, leading to activation and expression of cell surface markers, proliferation, immunoglobulin class switching and inhibition of programmed cell death (PCD). Germinal center B-cells, for example, can be prevented from undergoing PCD by CD40 activation. The mechanism by which PCD is inhibited has been an enigma. A potential role for A20, a novel zinc finger protein, in inhibiting B-cell apoptosis was suggested by our previous finding that it is induced by the Epstein-Barr virus LMP-1 gene product, a potent cell death inhibitor. We now show that CD40 activation induces A20 and that expression of A20 renders B-cell lines resistant to PCD. Additionally, we show that CD40 activation of A20 expression is mediated by inducible binding of NF-kappa B complexes to the A20 promoter and provide evidence for a critical role for Thr234 (in the CD40 cytoplasmic domain) in activating NF-kappa B.