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CD28 is well characterized as a costimulatory molecule in T cell activation. Recent evidences indicate that TNFR superfamily members, including glucocorticoid-induced TNFR-related protein (GITR), act as costimulatory molecules. In this study, the relationship between GITR and CD28 has been investigated in murine CD8(+) T cells. When suboptimal doses of anti-CD3 Ab were used, the absence of GITR lowered CD28-induced activation in these cells whereas the lack of CD28 did not affect the response of CD8(+) T cells to GITR costimulus. In fact, costimulation of CD28 in anti-CD3-activated GITR(-/-) CD8(+) T cells resulted in an impaired increase of proliferation, impaired protection from apoptosis, and an impaired rise of activation molecules such as IL-2R, IL-2, and IFN-gamma. Most notably, CD28-costimulated GITR(-/-) CD8(+) T cells revealed lower NF-kappaB activation. As a consequence, up-regulation of Bcl-x(L), one of the major target proteins of CD28-dependent NF-kappaB activation, was defective in costimulated GITR(-/-) CD8(+) T cells. What contributed to the response to CD28 ligation in CD8(+) T cells was the early up-regulation of GITR ligand on the same cells, the effect of which was blocked by the addition of a recombinant GITR-Fc protein. Our results indicate that GITR influences CD8(+) T cell response to CD28 costimulation, lowering the threshold of CD8(+) T cell activation.