To characterize better the co-stimulatory activity of native B7-1 in the absence of other receptor/ligand interactions that might contribute to the response, B7-1 was purified by monoclonal antibody (mAb) affinity chromatography. Immobilization of purified B7-1 with anti-T cell receptor (TCR) mAb on cell-sized latex microspheres provided an effective stimulus for activation of both CD4+ and CD8+ T cells as measured by proliferation, development of effector function, and changes in motility and adhesion. The CD4+ T cell response was prolonged and resulted in efficient interleukin-2 production and clonal expansion. In contrast, CD8+ responses were transient. Proliferation and clonal expansion peaked on days 3 and 4, coincident with maximal expression of lytic effector function, and the cells then died. These results demonstrate that B7-1 mediated co-stimulation is sufficient for the induction of effector function in both helper and cytotoxic T cell precursors, but suggest that B7-1 co-stimulation is not sufficient to sustain helper-independent CD8+ CTL responses. When the dose responses of CD4+ and CD8+ T cells to B7-1 were compared, CD8+ T cells were found to require higher densities of B7-1 to attain an equivalent level of activation, suggesting that the level of expression of B7-1 by APC may influence the development of helper or CTL responses. Finally, in contrast to results obtained by others with B7-1 transfectants, purified B7-1 did not provide co-stimulation when presented on a surface separate from the TCR stimulus.