The production and characterization of a cell line for quantitative HIV-1 Tat function and T cell activation assays is described. 1G5 is a clonal cell line derived from Jurkat T cells stably transfected with a luciferase gene driven by an HIV-1 long terminal repeat (HIV-LTR). The 1G5 clone was selected for low basal luciferase activity, susceptibility to HIV infection, and high responsiveness to Tat and T cell activation signals. A 10 to 1000-fold increase in luciferase activity after transfection or infection with tat-expressing vectors or HIV was observed. Equivalent levels of expression were detected after stimulation with T cell mitogens. The characteristics of 1G5 make it a valuable reagent for studies of HIV infection, HIV regulatory agents, and other T cell or HIV-activating factors, and for screening potential anti-HIV therapeutic agents.