Bone marrow (BM) transplantation under costimulation blockade induces chimerism and tolerance. Cotransplantation of donor T cells (contained in substantial numbers in mobilized peripheral blood stem cells and donor lymphocyte infusions) together with donor BM paradoxically triggers rejection of donor BM through undefined mechanisms. Here, nonmyeloablatively irradiated C57BL/6 recipients simultaneously received donor BM (BALB/c) and donor T cells under costimulation blockade (anti-CD154 and CTLA4Ig). Donor CD4, but not CD8 cells, triggered natural killer-independent donor BM rejection which was associated with increased production of IL-6, interferon gamma (IFN-γ) and IL-17A. BM rejection was prevented through neutralization of IL-6, but not of IFN-γ or IL-17A. IL-6 counteracted the antiproliferative effect of anti-CD154 in vitro. Rapamycin and anti-lymphocyte function-associated antigen 1 negated this effect of IL-6 in vitro and prevented BM rejection in vivo. Simultaneous cotransplantation of (BALB/cxB6)F1, recipient or irradiated donor CD4 cells, or late transfer of donor CD4 cells did not lead to BM rejection, whereas cotransplantation of third party CD4 cells did. Transferred donor CD4 cells became activated, rapidly underwent apoptosis and triggered activation and proliferation of recipient T cells. Collectively, these results provide evidence that donor T cells recognizing the recipient as allogeneic lead to the release of IL-6, which abolishes the effect of anti-CD154, triggering donor BM rejection through bystander activation.