The phosphatidylinositol phosphatase gene PTEN is a dual specific phosphatase acting on phospho amino acids but also on three phosphorylated inositol phospholipids. Present results demonstrate that PTEN is inducible by costimulatory signals in human CD4(+) T cells. PTEN expression was up-regulated on RNA and protein level in freshly isolated human CD4(+) T cells following stimulation with CD28 or CD2. In contrast, PTEN expression was high but remained CD28 and CD2 unresponsive in lymphoma cells. Intracellular staining revealed PTEN expression in CD4(+) T cell populations stimulated with anti-CD28 or anti-CD28 / anti-CD3. Stimulation with anti-CD3 alone did not induce PTEN expression. Inhibition of PTEN expression by antisense oligonucleotides in CD4(+) T cells stimulated with non-mitogenic anti-CD28 resulted in massively increased proliferation, which was sensitive to the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3 K) inhibitor wortmannin. Although CD28 and CD2 induce PI3 K signal transduction, wortmannin did not block PTEN up-regulation by CD28 or CD2 indicating that PTEN gene expression is PI3 K independent. These results demonstrate that PTEN negatively controls costimulatory signals by antagonizing PI3 K activity in the absence of TCR engagement.