Phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI 3-kinase) is activated by the cytokine interleukin-2 (IL-2). We have used a constitutively active PI 3-kinase to identify IL-2-mediated signal transduction pathways directly regulated by PI 3-kinase in lymphoid cells. The serine/threonine protein kinase B (PKB)/Akt can act as a powerful oncogene in T cells, but its positioning in normal T cell responses has not been explored. Herein, we demonstrate that PKB is activated by IL-2 in a PI 3-kinase-dependent fashion. Importantly, PI 3- kinase signals are sufficient for pKB activation in IL-2-dependent T cells, and PKB is a target for PI 3-kinase signals in IL-2 activation pathways. The present study establishes also that PI 3-kinase signals or pKB signals are sufficient for activation of p70 S6 kinase in T cells. PI 3-kinase can contribute to, but is not sufficient for, activation of extracellular signal- regulated kinases (Erks) and Erk effector pathways. Therefore, PI 3-kinase is a selective regulator of serine/threonine kinase signal transduction pathways in T lymphocytes, and this enzyme provides a crucial link between the interleukin-2 receptor, the protooncogene PKB, and p70 S6 kinase.