We investigated the role of blood dendritic cells (DCs) in transmission of HIV-1 from infected to uninfected CD4+ T cells, and the accessory molecules involved. DCs promoted transmission from infected to uninfected CD4+ cells, but DCs themselves were not infectable. DC-mediated transmission was blocked by MAb to CD4 and MHC class II, but strongly increased by MAb to CD40 on DCs or CD28 on T cells. The DC-dependent infection was inhibitable by anti-CD80 and a soluble fusion protein of the CD80 ligand, CTLA4; soluble CTLA4 immunoglobulin also blocked infection augmented by cross-linking CD40. These data suggest a linkage between CD40-CD40L and CD28-CD80 counterreceptors on DCs and T cells, and spread of HIV infection in vivo.