4-1BB is an inducible T cell antigen that shows sequence homology to members of an emerging family of cytokine receptors, including those for tumor necrosis factor and nerve growth factor. To aid in the analysis of the function of 4-1BB we have utilized a soluble form of the molecule as a probe to identify and clone the gene which encodes its ligand. The ligand for 4-1BB is a type II membrane glycoprotein that has homology to tumor necrosis factor, lymphotoxin, and the ligands for CD40 and CD27, all of which are themselves ligands to receptors in this superfamily. The gene for 4-1BB is on mouse chromosome 4 and maps close to the p80 form of the tumor necrosis factor receptor as well as the gene for CD30. The gene for 4-1BB ligand maps to mouse chromosome 17, but considerably distal to the tumor necrosis factor and lymphotoxin genes. Interaction of 4-1BB with its ligand induces the proliferation of activated thymocytes and splenic T cells, a response which is mimicked on similar cell populations stimulated with an antibody to 4-1BB.