Neovascularization frequently accompanies chronic immune responses characterized by T cell infiltration and activation. Angiogenesis requires endothelial cells (ECs) to penetrate extracellular matrix, a process that involves matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs). We report here that activated human T cells mediate contact-dependent expression of MMPs in ECs through CD40/CD40 ligand signaling. Ligation of CD40 on ECs induced de novo expression of gelatinase B (MMP-9), increased interstitial collagenase (MMP-1) and stromelysin (MMP-3), and activated gelatinase A (MMP-2). Recombinant human CD40L induced expression of MMPs by human vascular ECs to a greater extent than did maximally effective concentrations of interleukin-1beta or tumor necrosis factor-alpha. Moreover, activation of human vascular ECs through CD40 induced tube formation in a three-dimensional fibrin matrix gel assay, an effect antagonized by a MMP inhibitor. These results demonstrated that activation of ECs by interaction with T cells induced synthesis and release of MMPs and promoted an angiogenic function of ECs via CD40L-CD40 signaling. As vascular cells at the sites of chronic inflammation, such as atherosclerotic plaques, express CD40 and its ligand, our findings suggest that ligation of CD40 on ECs can mediate aspects of vascular remodeling and neovessel formation during atherogenesis and other chronic immune reactions.