We recently identified a gene that is induced by lymphocyte activation (ILA). The sequence of the full-length 1.4-kb cDNA characterized ILA as a new member of the nerve growth factor/tumor necrosis factor (NGF/TNF) receptor family and the human homologue of the murine T-cell-specific receptor 4-1BB. The present study demonstrates ILA mRNA isoforms at 4.4, 4.0, and 1.8 kb in poly-A+ RNA from activated, but not from resting human peripheral blood T lymphocytes. A reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) assay was used to study tissue distribution and regulation of ILA expression. The gene was induced in T lymphocytes by phytohemagglutinin (PHA), phorbol myristate acetate (PMA), and antibody to CD3, in B lymphocytes by PMA and antibodies to cell surface Ig, and in blood monocytes by interleukin-1 beta (IL-1 beta), lipopolysaccharide (LPS), and PMA. In T lymphocytes, ILA mRNA was detectable 1.5 hours after stimulation, reached maximal levels at 8 hours, and declined to background levels by 48 hours. Induction of ILA mRNA required protein synthesis and was primarily due to increased transcription. Actinomycin D reduced ILA mRNA levels in activated lymphocytes 50% within 30 minutes, demonstrating a relatively short half-life of this mRNA. Analysis of nonlymphoid cells showed that ILA mRNA was not detectable in resting cells. However, in contrast to the lymphoid-specific expression of the murine 4-1BB gene, ILA was detected in nonlymphoid cells, including epithelial and hepatoma cells after stimulation with IL-1 beta. ILA was not detectable in several brain derived cell lines. The ILA cDNA encodes a 30-kD protein as demonstrated by in vitro translation, and this protein is immunoprecipitated by antisera that were raised against ILA peptides or a glutathione-S-transferase fusion protein. Flow cytometry showed expression of ILA protein on a subset of activated T or B lymphocytes. In conclusion, activation-dependent expression of ILA is found not only in T lymphocytes, but also in B lymphocytes, monocytes, and diverse nonlymphoid cell types.