Interleukin-21 (IL-21) plays important roles in regulating the immune response. IL-21 receptor (IL-21R) mRNA is expressed at a low level in human resting T cells but is rapidly induced by mitogenic stimulation. We now investigate the basis for IL21R gene regulation in T cells. We found that the -80 to -20 region critically regulates IL-21R promoter activity and corresponds to a major DNase I-hypersensitive site. Electrophoretic mobility shift assays, DNA affinity chromatography followed by mass spectrometry, and chromatin immunoprecipitation assays revealed that Sp1 binds to this region in vitro and in vivo. Moreover, mutation of the Sp1 motif markedly reduced IL-21R promoter activity, and Sp1 small interfering RNAs effectively diminished IL-21R expression in activated T cells. Interestingly, upon T-cell receptor (TCR) stimulation, T cells increased IL-21R expression and Sp1 protein levels while decreasing Sp1 phosphorylation. Moreover, phosphatase inhibitors that increased phosphorylation of Sp1 diminished IL-21R transcription. These data indicate that TCR-induced IL-21R expression is driven by TCR-mediated augmentation of Sp1 protein levels and may partly depend on the dephosphorylation of Sp1.