CD5 is a 67-kDa antigen that is expressed on the membrane of the majority of human T cells, and on a subset of B cells. Previous studies have demonstrated that anti-CD5 monoclonal antibodies (mAb) can provide a helper signal for T cell activation through the TCR/CD3 complex. We now demonstrate that when CD5 is crosslinked by immobilized anti-CD5 mAb in the absence of other activating stimuli, the T cells proliferate in response to recombinant interleukin 2 (rIL2) (but not to rIL4). Four different anti-CD5 mAb (anti-Leu1, 10.2, anti-T1, and OKT1) had a similar effect. IL2 responsiveness could be induced with immobilized anti-CD5 mAb in cultures of purified T cells, but was enhanced by the addition of monocytes, by monocyte culture supernatant, or by the combination of IL1 and IL6. Staining with an anti-IL2 receptor (p55) mAb demonstrated expression of IL2 receptors on about 10% of the anti-CD5-stimulated T cells. Both virgin (CD45RA+) and memory (CD45RO+) T cells were responsive. Our data provide further evidence for the involvement of CD5 in T cell activation.