Central to the pathogenesis of allergic airway inflammation are the activation and differentiation of T lymphocytes. This process requires the participation of the CD28 costimulatory receptor. Blockade of CD28 has been demonstrated to prevent inflammation and airway hyperreactivity in a murine model of asthma. Whether this is due specifically to defects in initial T cell activation or whether effector responses are also impaired has not been determined. Using adoptive transfer studies of Ag-specific lymphocytes, we demonstrate that CD28 has a critical role in both the induction and effector phase of allergic airway inflammation. Transfer of in vitro activated and Th2-differentiated Ag-specific lymphocytes from wild-type hosts restored inflammation, but not tissue eosinophilia in CD28-deficient recipients. Furthermore, similarly activated and differentiated CD28-deficient lymphocytes were ineffective at mediating inflammation in wild-type recipients. Secondary cytokine and proliferative responses of activated Th2 cells were highly dependent on CD28 in vitro. Moreover, eosinophil recruitment to both the lung and peritoneum is impaired by the lack of CD28, suggesting a generalized defect in the ability of eosinophils to accumulate at sites of inflammation in vivo. These data identify a novel role for CD28 in the effector phase of allergic airway inflammation and suggest that inhibition of this pathway may be a useful therapeutic intervention in previously sensitized individuals.