Tumour necrosis factor (TNF) induces apoptosis in a range of cell types via its two receptors, TNFR1 and TNFR2. Here, we demonstrate that proliferation and TNFR2 expression was increased in human leukaemic TF-1 cells by granulocyte macrophage-colony stimulating factor (GM-CSF) and interleukin-3 (IL-3), with TNFR1 expression unaffected. Consequently, they switch from a proliferative to a TNF-induced apoptotic phenotype. Raised TNFR2 expression and susceptibility to TNF-induced apoptosis was not a general effect of proliferation as IL-1beta and IFN-gamma both proliferated TF-1 cells with no effect on TNFR expression or apoptosis. Although raised TNFR2 expression correlated with the apoptotic phenotype, stimulation of apoptosis in GM-CSF-pretreated cells was mediated by TNFR1, with stimulation of TNFR2 alone insufficient to initiate cell death. However, TNFR2 did play a role in apoptotic and proliferative responses as they were blocked by the presence of an antagonistic TNFR2 antibody. Additionally, coincubation with cycloheximide blocked the mitotic effects of GM-CSF or IL-3, allowing only the apoptotic responses of TNF to persist. TNF life/death was also observed in K562, but not MOLT-4 and HL-60 human leukaemic cell types. These findings show a cooperative role of TNFR2 in the TNF life/death switching phenomenon.