The involvement of CD43 in cell proliferation of murine intestinal intraepithelial lymphocytes (IEL) has been studied in in vitro CD3-stimulated cell cultures. In the presence of either IL-2 or IL-15, CD3 stimulation of IEL resulted in low levels of proliferation as measured by thymidine incorporation, whereas no proliferation occurred upon CD3 stimulation in the absence of cytokines. The combination of both cytokines to IEL cultures synergistically enhanced CD3-induced proliferation by approximately threefold that of cultures supplemented with either cytokine alone. Most importantly, however, proliferation of IEL was significantly greater when CD3 stimulation occurred in conjunction with CD43 triggering, indicating that CD43 functions as a coactivational signal for murine IEL. These findings indicate that a spectrum of potential proliferative responses exist among murine IEL depending on the types and combinations of signals received, and that because under normal conditions murine IEL are largely devoid of CD28 expression, a classical T-cell coactivational molecule, the capacity for high-level IEL proliferation may reside with CD43.