In this study, we investigated the role of the naturally occurring B cell-mediated T cell costimulation in the antitumor efficacy of the bispecific Ab BIS20x3. BIS20x3 has a dual specificity for both CD20 and CD3 and has previously been shown to effectively direct the lytic potential of cytolytic T cells toward malignant, CD20(+) B cells. BIS20x3 instigated T cell-B cell interaction caused a dose-dependent activation of T cells that was 30 times stronger when compared with T cell activation induced by monovalent anti-CD3 Abs. The activation of T cells by BIS20x3 and B cells appeared functional and resulted in the rapid induction of high lytic potential in freshly isolated peripheral T cells. BIS20x3-mediated T cell-B cell interaction resulted in a significant upregulation of ICAM-1 on B cells and the activation of T cells was found to be dependent on the interaction of ICAM-1 with LFA-1 and trans-activation by the NF-kappaB pathway. Also, the lytic potential of freshly isolated T cells activated via BIS20x3 appeared to be dependent on NF-kappaB signaling in the target B cells. Interestingly, the costimulatory signaling effects described in this study appeared specifically related to the targeting against CD20 because targeting against CD19, by a CD3xCD19-directed bispecific Ab, was significantly less effective in inducing T cell activation and T cell-mediated B cell lysis. Together these results demonstrate that the malignant B cells actively contribute to their own demise upon CD20-directed bispecific Ab-mediated T cell targeting.