Mature T cells are susceptible to activation-induced cell death in the periphery. Activation-induced cell death is thought to involve CD95/CD95 ligand interactions in vivo. Here we report that stimulated, CD45RO+ human T cell lines specific for myelin basic protein or tetanus toxoid from multiple sclerosis patients and healthy individuals resist apoptosis induced by soluble recombinant CD95 ligand in vitro. In contrast, the same CD95 ligand effectively kills Jurkat T lymphoma and human malignant glioma cells. The resistance of the T cell lines is not due to a lack of CD95 expression at the cell surface and is not overcome by coexposure to CD95 ligand and inhibitors of RNA or protein synthesis. The expression level of BCL-2 is lower in Jurkat than in Ag-specific T cells. After exposure to soluble CD95 ligand, Jurkat T cells, but not Ag-specific T cells, exhibit loss of BCL-2 and BCL-X expression whereas BAX expression is not affected. Surprisingly, Ag-specific T cells are rather sensitive to CD95 ligand expressed at the cell surface of N2A neuroblastoma cells. Accessory molecules expressed by the CD95 ligand-expressing effector cell are dispensable for apoptosis since the T cells are equally sensitive to agonistic APO-1 Ab. Further studies are required to determine whether resistance to soluble CD95 ligand-mediated apoptosis is a possible escape mechanism for T cells from peripheral deletion that may have relevance for autoimmune disorders.