The Schlafen (Slfn) family of genes are differentially regulated during thymocyte maturation and are preferentially expressed in the lymphoid tissues. Ectopic expression of the prototype member Slfn1 early in the T lineage profoundly alters cell growth and development. In these mice, the DP thymocytes fail to complete maturation, and, depending on the transgene dosage, the number of thymocytes is reduced to 1%-30% of normal. Furthermore, expression of the Schlafen family members in fibroblasts and thymoma cells either retards or ablates cell growth. The conceptual protein sequences deduced for each of the family members have no similarity to characterized proteins and must therefore participate in a heretofore unknown regulatory mechanism guiding both cell growth and T cell development.