The activation of highly purified murine peripheral T cells in vitro by Con A is dependent on a co-stimulatory signal that is not IL-1 or IL-2. Previous evidence has demonstrated that the recently defined lymphokine IL-6 could provide costimulatory activity for purified T cells cultured with Con A. In this report we demonstrate that IL-7 also has potent co-stimulatory activity for purified murine T cells, as well as its previously described ability to support the growth of pre-B cells in Witte-Whitlock cultures. When rIL-7 was added to cultures of purified T cells together with Con A, it induced the expression of IL-2 receptors, IL-2 production, and consequently proliferation. In addition, IL-7 exhibited the same magnitude of activity in this assay as IL-6. Also, anti-IL-6 antibody which inhibited the IL-6-induced response had no effect on the IL-7 response. Thus, IL-7 does not act by inducing IL-6. These results demonstrate that IL-7, a potent growth stimulus for pre-B cells, also has a role in T cell activation.