Although presentation of antigen to the T cell receptor is necessary for the initiation of an immune response, additional molecules expressed on antigen-presenting cells deliver essential costimulatory signals. T cell activation, in the absence of costimulation, results in T cell anergy. The B7-1 protein is a costimulator molecule that regulates interleukin-2 (IL-2) secretion by signaling through the pathway that uses CD28 and CTLA-4 (hereafter referred to as the CD28 pathway). We have cloned a counter-receptor of CD28 and CTLA-4, termed B7-2. Although only 26 percent identical to B7-1, B7-2 also costimulates IL-2 production and T cell proliferation. Unlike B7-1, B7-2 messenger RNA is constitutively expressed in unstimulated B cells. It is likely that B7-2 provides a critical early costimulatory signal determining if the T cell will contribute to an immune response or become anergic.