CD40 ligand (CD40L, CD154), a transmembrane protein structurally related to the cytokine TNF-alpha, was originally identified on stimulated CD4+ T cells, and later on stimulated mast cells and basophils. Interaction of CD40L on T cells with CD40 on B cells is of paramount importance for the development and function of the humoral immune system. CD40 is not only constitutively present on B cells, but it is also found on monocytes, macrophages and endothelial cells, suggesting that CD40L has a broader function in vivo. We now report that platelets express CD40L within seconds of activation in vitro and in the process of thrombus formation in vivo. Like TNF-alpha and interleukin-1, CD40L on platelets induces endothelial cells to secrete chemokines and to express adhesion molecules, thereby generating signals for the recruitment and extravasation of leukocytes at the site of injury. Our results indicate that platelets are not only involved in haemostasis but that they also directly initiate an inflammatory response of the vessel wall.