The cell surface receptors for PRL and interleukin-2 (IL-2) are structurally distinct, but share regulatory tasks in T lymphocytes. They can stimulate proliferation and activate transcription of over-lapping sets of genes of T cells. PRL and IL-2 receptor activation are both linked to the Jak/Stat (signal transducer and activator of transcription) pathway. We investigated the ability of PRL and IL-2 to activate Stat proteins in different T cell lines. The DNA binding specificities, the reactivities toward Stat-specific antisera, and the mol wt of IL-2- and PRL-induced DNA-binding proteins in Nb2 and C196 T cell lines were investigated. A comparison with the Stat proteins induced by interferon-gamma, PRL, and IL-6 in T47D mammary tumor cells was made. We found that these parameters were indistinguishable for one of the PRL- and IL-2-induced factors. A transcription factor closely related to mammary gland factor-Stat5 is rapidly activated upon interaction of IL-2 and PRL with their respective receptors. Activation of a second protein related to Stat1 was also observed. Our results emphasize the role of PRL as a regulator of the immune response and indicate that the Stat factors mammary gland factor-Stat5 and Stat1 play a role in the regulation of gene expression during T cell development.