CD4 engagement triggers an early signaling cascade which initiates late events such as transcription factor activation. The outcome of CD4 engagement is T-cell commitment to alternative, dramatically different fates, such as activation and apoptosis. We have tested a panel of anti-CD4 mAbs specific for different CD4 epitopes, as well as HIV-1 gp120, for the capacity to activate crucial early events such as enhancement of p56(lck) kinase activity and Shc phosphorylation. The same CD4 epitopes were characterized for their capacity both to deliver a gene activating signal and to program T-cells to activation dependent death. No correlation could be found between capacity of specific CD4 epitopes to deliver a gene activating signal and capacity to prime T-cells to apoptosis, suggesting that gene activating and proapoptotic potential are independent functions of CD4 epitopes. Furthermore, while triggering of the calcium pathway appears critical in NF-AT activation, optimal p56(lck) activation and Shc phosphorylation might be required for initiation of the apoptotic pathway.