Costimulation between T cells and APC is required for productive immune responses. A number of receptor/ligand pairs have been shown to mediate costimulation, including CD28/B7 molecules (CD80 and CD86), CD40/CD40 ligand (CD40L, CD154), and LFA-1 (CD18)/ICAM-1 (CD54). T-B cell costimulation also plays a significant role in autoimmune diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus. Murine HgCl2-induced autoimmunity (mHgIA) is a T cell-dependent systemic autoimmune disease that shares a number of common pathogenic mechanisms with idiopathic lupus. In this report, the significance of costimulation in mHgIA is examined by attempting to induce disease in mice deficient in either CD40L, CD28, or ICAM-1. Unlike absence of ICAM-1, homozygous deficiencies in either CD40L or CD28 significantly reduced the development of mHgIA. CD40L displayed a gene dosage effect as heterozygous mice also showed reduction of autoantibody responses and immunopathology. Markers of T cell activation such as CD44 and CTLA-4 were associated with disease expression in wild-type and ICAM-1-deficient mice but not in CD40L- or CD28-deficient mice. Absence of CTLA-4 expression in CD40L-/- mice suggests that signaling via both CD28 and CD40L is important for T cell activation and subsequent autoimmunity in mHgIA. Attempts to circumvent the absence of CD40L by increasing CD28 signaling via agonistic Ab failed to elicit CTLA-4 expression. These findings indicate that breaking of self-tolerance in mHgIA requires signaling via both the CD28/B7 and CD40/CD40L pathways.