Lower numbers of Vγ9Vδ2 T cells in cord blood (CB) than in adult peripheral blood (PB), as well as their impaired ability to produce interferon-γ (IFN-γ) in response to stimulation, are associated with functional deficiency in the immune system in newborns. In this study, we stimulated CB Vγ9 T cells with their T-cell receptor-specific ligand, isopentenyl pyrophosphate (IPP), plus exogenous costimulatory cytokines such as interleukin-2 (IL-2), IL-12 and tumour necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), which are known to play important roles in the activation of PB γδ T cells. Our data show that CB Vγ9 T cells are able to produce IFN-γ at levels comparable to PB Vγ9 T cells by the addition of TNF-α in the presence of IPP and IL-2; however, under the same culture conditions, IL-12 does not efficiently activate CB Vγ9 T cells to produce IFN-γ. The frequency of TNF-α receptor II-positive Vγ9T cells and the expression levels of TNF-α receptor II are similar in CB and PB; in contrast, the frequency of IL-12 receptor βI (IL-12RβI) -positive Vγ9T cells and expression levels of IL-12RβI are significantly lower in CB than PB. TNF-α but not IL-12 increases the expression of IL-2Rβ on CB Vγ9 T cells. These results provide new insights into the role of TNF-α in the activation of CB Vγ9 T cells.