The co-stimulatory B7 molecules (B7-1 and B7-2) are expressed on professional antigen-presenting cells in mice. In this study, we demonstrate that B7-1 (CD80) and B7-2 (CD86) are also expressed on murine T cells in the absence of major histocompatibility complex class II molecules. The temporal expression of these two molecules on T cells varies with the state of activation where resting T cells express B7-2 but show little or no expression of B7-1. Following activation, B7-2 expression is down-regulated and there is a concomitant increase in the expression of B7-1 on the cell surface which peaks at about 72 h. Thus these two co-stimulatory molecules are reciprocally expressed on the T cell surface. This pattern of expression of B7-1 and B7-2 on T cells suggests that these two molecules may have different roles in the generation and regulation of immune responses.