T lymphocyte activation and proliferation is involved in many pathological processes. We have recently shown that carbon monoxide (CO), an enzymatic product of heme oxyenase-1 (HO-1), confers potent antiproliferative effects in airway and vascular smooth muscle cells. The purpose of this study was to determine whether CO can inhibit T lymphocyte proliferation and then to determine the mechanism by which CO can modulate T lymphocyte proliferation. In the presence of 250 parts per million CO, CD3-activated T lymphocyte proliferation was, remarkably, inhibited by 80% when compared with controls. We observed that the antiproliferative effect of CO in T lymphocytes was independent of the mitogen-activated protein kinase or cGMP signaling pathways, unlike what we demonstrated previously in smooth muscle cells. We demonstrate that CO inhibited caspase-3 and caspase-8 expression and activity, and caspase inhibition with benzyloxycarbonyl-Val-Ala-Asp-fluoromethylketone (Z-VAD-FMK pan-caspase inhibitor) blocked T lymphocyte proliferation. Furthermore, in caspase-8-deficient lymphocytes, the antiproliferative effect of CO was markedly attenuated, further supporting the involvement of caspase-8 in the antiproliferative effects of CO. CO also increased the protein level of p21 Cip1, and CO-mediated inhibition of caspase activity is partially regulated by p21Cip1. Taken together, these data suggest that CO confers potent antiproliferative effects in CD3-activated T lymphocytes and that these antiproliferative effects in T lymphocytes are mediated by p21 Cip1-dependent caspase activity, in particular caspase-8, independent of cGMP and mitogen-activated protein kinase signaling pathways.