The precise mechanisms regulating T-helper function have been intensively investigated. We and others have recently identified a new T-cell-B-cell-activating molecule called T-BAM that directs B-cell differentiation by interacting with the CD40 molecule on B cells. Using a specific monoclonal antibody against T-BAM (5C8), we have previously shown that T-BAM expressing T cells are predominantly CD4+CD8- and in normal lymphoid tissue have a unique distribution. However, no information has been obtained regarding the phenotype and functional properties of human neoplastic T cells. Therefore, we investigated T- BAM expression immunohistochemically in 87 well-characterized T-cell non-Hodgkin's lymphomas and lymphoid leukemias (LL). We found that 21/81 neoplasms expressed detectable T-BAM and these positive tumors belong almost exclusively to the CD4+CD8- subtype. In addition, to determine whether T-BAM expression could be induced on T-BAM-LL cells, we activated T-BAM-LLs in vitro and showed that T-BAM could be upregulated only in CD4+CD8- tumors. Our studies clearly show that T- BAM is constitutively expressed in a large number of T-cell neoplasms with a relative mature phenotype (CD4+CD8-) and that only CD4+ neoplastic T cells can be induced in vitro to express this molecule. Additional studies are necessary to identify the biologic significance of T-BAM expression and its potential and clinical implications.