We investigated the biological role of the human tumor necrosis factor p75 (hTNF-R75), making use of the species specificity of TNF responses in murine (m) T cell lines. Several TNF-mediated activities on mouse T cells, such as cytokine induction or proliferation, showed a 100-500- fold difference in specific biological activity between mTNF and hTNF. After transfection of hTNF-R75 cDNA in a rat/mouse T cell hybridoma (PC60), however, the 100-fold lower specific biological activity of hTNF was converted to the same specific biological activity as mTNF. The TNF-mediated induction of granulocyte/macrophage colony-stimulating factor was strongly synergized by the addition of interleukin 1. In the presence of the latter cytokine, ligand-competing monoclonal antibodies against hTNF-R75 (utr-1, utr-2, utr-3) were agonistic on transfected PC60 cells. This agonistic activity was further enhanced by crosslinking with sheep anti-murine immunoglobulin antibodies. These data provide direct evidence for a functional role of TNF-R75, without ligand-dependent TNF-R55 involvement, in the induction of cytokine secretion in T cells.