BACKGROUND: The molecular reorganization of signaling molecules after T cell receptor (TCR) activation is accompanied by polymerization of actin at the site of contact between a T cell and an antigen-presenting cell (APC), as well as extension of actin-rich lamellipodia around the APC. Actin polymerization is critical for the fidelity and efficiency of the T cell response to antigen. The ability of T cells to polymerize actin is critical for several steps in T cell activation including TCR clustering, mature immunological synapse formation, calcium flux, IL-2 production, and proliferation. Activation of the Rac GTPase has been linked to regulation of actin polymerization after TCR stimulation. However, the molecules required for TCR-mediated actin polymerization downstream of activated Rac have remained elusive. Here we identify a novel role for the Abi/Wave protein complex, which signals downstream of activated Rac, in the regulation of actin polymerization and T cell activation in response to TCR stimulation. RESULTS: Here we show that Abi and Wave rapidly translocate from the T cell cytoplasm to the T cell:B cell contact site in the presence of antigen. Abi and Wave colocalize with actin at the T cell:B cell conjugation site. Moreover, Wave and Abi are necessary for actin polymerization after T cell activation, and loss of Abi proteins in mice impairs TCR-induced cell proliferation and IL-2 production in primary T cells. Significantly, the impairment in actin polymerization in cells lacking Abi proteins is due to the inability of Wave proteins to localize to the T cell:B cell contact site in the presence of antigen, rather than the destabilization of the components of the Wave protein complex. CONCLUSIONS: The Abi/Wave complex is a novel regulator of TCR-mediated actin dynamics, IL-2 production, and proliferation.