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Tributyltin oxide (TBTO) is an organotin compound that is widely used as a biocide in agriculture and as an antifouling agent in paints. TBTO is toxic for many cell types, particularly immune cells. The present study aimed to identify the effects of TBTO on the human T lymphocyte cell line Jurkat. Cells were treated with 0.2 and 0.5 μM TBTO for 3, 6, 12 and 24 h and then subjected to whole genome gene expression microarray analysis. The biological interpretation of the gene expression profiles revealed that endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress is among the earliest effects of TBTO. Simultaneously or shortly thereafter, oxidative stress, activation of NFKB and NFAT, T cell activation, and apoptosis are induced. The effects of TBTO on genes involved in ER stress, NFAT pathway, T cell activation and apoptosis were confirmed by qRT-PCR. Activation and nuclear translocation of NFATC1 and the oxidative stress response proteins NRF2 and KEAP1 were confirmed by immunocytology. Taking advantage of previously published microarray data, we demonstrated that the induction of ER stress, oxidative stress, T cell activation and apoptosis by TBTO is not unique for Jurkat cells but does also occur in mouse thymocytes both ex vivo and in vivo and rat thymocytes ex vivo. We propose that the induction of ER stress leading to a T cell activation response is a major factor in the higher sensitivity of immune cells above other types of cells for TBTO.