The induction of Fas ligand (FasL) mRNA expression and FasL-mediated cytotoxicity in CD8+ CTL is a rapid and transient response to activation via the TCR. This response can also be initiated by pharmacologic activation of two major TCR signaling pathways using phorbol ester (PMA) and calcium ionophore (ionomycin). In these experiments using CD8+ alloreactive cell lines, we demonstrate that induction of FasL mRNA can occur in response to either PMA or ionomycin independently. However, only the ionomycin pathway is sensitive to inhibition by cyclosporine A. Both pathways are blocked by genistein, a general protein tyrosine kinase inhibitor. The magnitude of induction of FasL mRNA is not proportional to the manifested FasL-dependent cytotoxicity. We also found a calcium requirement for cytotoxicity that is unrelated to FasL mRNA induction. In addition to the positive effects of constitutive and induced calcium levels on FasL-mediated cytotoxicity, calcium may play a role in the rapid down-regulation of the response. We also present data suggesting that CD2 and LFA-1 contribute to FasL-mediated cytotoxicity. Together these results suggest pathways by which partial TCR activation could, among the many activation-induced functions of a T cell, selectively lead to the induction of FasL-mediated cytotoxicity that can be regulated by lineage/ activation-dependent accessory molecules on the target.