To investigate the mechanisms underlying the deficiency of T lymphocytes from patients with Hodgkin's disease, we investigated the expression of the T-cell receptor (TCR) zeta chain in patients with Hodgkin's disease. By flow cytometry using an anti-zeta chain monoclonal antibody, peripheral blood T lymphocytes from patients with untreated Hodgkin's disease were shown to express decreased levels of the TCR zeta chain. After stimulation by combined CD3 and CD28 cross- linking, T cells from Hodgkin's disease patients upregulated zeta chain protein expression to normal values within 48 hours and achieved a cytolytic potential and levels of interleukin (IL)-2 secretion that were not different from T cells obtained from healthy controls. These results show that downregulation of the TCR zeta chain in Hodgkin's T lymphocytes is a reversible event. Costimulation of CD3 and CD28 is a novel approach for overcoming the T-cell deficiency in Hodgkin's disease and might be exploited clinically. As upregulation of the zeta chain can also be achieved using bispecific monoclonal antibodies (BI- MoAbs) with specificity for tumor antigens and CD3 and CD28, respectively, an immunotherapy with CD3/CD30 and CD28/CD30 Bi-MoAbs may overcome and should therefore, not be jeopardized by the inherent T- cell deficiency in patients with Hodgkin's disease.