AU-rich elements found in the 3′-untranslated regions of cytokine and proto-oncogene transcripts regulate mRNA degradation and function as binding sites for the mRNA-stabilizing protein HuA and the mRNA-destabilizing protein tristetraprolin. Experiments were performed to evaluate the expression of HuA and tristetraprolin in purified human T lymphocytes and to evaluate the ability of these proteins to recognize specific AU-rich sequences. HuA is a predominantly nuclear protein that can also be found in the cytoplasm of resting T lymphocytes. Within 1 h after stimulation of T lymphocytes with anti-T cell receptor antibodies or a combination of a phorbol myristate acetate and ionomycin, an increase in cytoplasmic HuA RNA-binding activity was observed. Although absent in resting cells, cytoplasmic tristetraprolin protein was detected 3-6 h following activation. HuA recognized specific AU-rich sequences found in c-jun or c-myc mRNA that were poorly recognized by tristetraprolin. In contrast, tristetraprolin recognized an AU-rich sequence in interleukin-2 mRNA that was poorly recognized by HuA. Both HuA and tristetraprolin, however, recognized AU-rich sequences from c-fos, interleukin-3, tumor necrosis factor-α, and granulocyte/macrophage colony-stimulating factor mRNA. HuA may transiently stabilize a subset of AU-rich element-containing transcripts following T lymphocyte activation, and tristetraprolin may subsequently mediate their degradation.