Studies of the biological effects of Fas signaling, using transformed cell lines as targets, indicate that ligation of the Fas receptor induces an apoptotic death signal. Chronically activated normal human T cells are also susceptible to Fas-mediated apoptosis. However, interactions between Fas and Fas ligand can also yield a costimulatory signal. Here, David Lynch, Fred Ramsdell and Mark Alderson present a model for the role of As and FasL in the homeostatic regulation of normal immune responses. They discuss how dysregulation of the Fas apoptotic pathway may contribute to certain disease states, including autoimmune disease and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-induced depletion of CD4+ T cells.