Thy-1 (CD90) crosslinking by monoclonal antibodies (mAb) in the context of costimulation causes the activation of mouse T-lymphocytes; however, the associated signal transduction processes have not been studied in detail. In this study we investigated the role of mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) in Thy-1-mediated T-lymphocyte activation using mAb-coated polystyrene microspheres to crosslink Thy-1 and costimulatory CD28 on murine T-lymphocytes. Concurrent Thy-1 and CD28 crosslinking induced DNA synthesis by T-lymphocytes, as well as interleukin (IL)-2 and IL-2 receptor (IL-2R) alpha chain (CD25) expression. Increased phosphorylation of extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) 1/2, p38 MAPK, and c-Jun N-terminal protein kinase (JNK) was also observed. Pharmacologic inhibition of ERK1/2 or JNK activation inhibited Thy-1-induced DNA synthesis and IL-2 production by T-lymphocytes. p38 MAPK inhibition also decreased DNA synthesis in Thy-1-stimulated T-lymphocytes; however, IL-2 production was increased in these cells. Inhibition of JNK, but not ERK1/2 or p38 MAPK, caused a marked reduction in Thy-1-induced CD25 expression. In addition, inhibition of p38 MAPK or JNK, but not ERK1/2, impaired the growth of IL-2-dependent CTLL-2 T-lymphocytes but did not substantially affect CD25 expression. Finally, exogenous IL-2 reversed the inhibitory effect of ERK1/2 or JNK inhibition on Thy-1-stimulated DNA synthesis by T-lymphocytes but did not substantially reverse JNK inhibition of CD25 expression. Collectively, these results suggest that during Thy-1-induced T-lymphocyte activation, ERK1/2 and JNK promoted IL-2 production whereas p38 MAPK negatively regulated IL-2 expression. JNK signalling was also required for CD25 expression. IL-2R signalling involved both p38 MAPK and JNK in CTLL-2 cells, whereas p38 MAPK was most important for IL-2R signalling in primary T-lymphocytes. MAPKs are therefore essential signalling intermediates for the Thy-1-driven proliferation of mouse T-lymphocytes.