Proliferation of Ag-specific T cells is central to the development of protective immunity. The concomitant stimulation of the TCR and CD28 programs resting T cells to IL-2-driven clonal expansion. We report that a prolonged occupancy of the TCR and CD28 bypasses the need for autocrine IL-2 secretion and sustains IL-2-independent lymphocyte proliferation. In contrast, a short engagement of the TCR and CD28 only drives the expansion of cells capable of IL-2 production. TCR/CD28- and IL-2-driven proliferation revealed a different requirement for PI3K and for the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR). Thus, both PI3K and mTOR activities were needed for T cells to proliferate to TCR/CD28-initiated stimuli and for optimal cyclin E expression. In contrast, either PI3K or mTOR were sufficient for IL-2-driven cell proliferation as they independently mediated cyclin E induction. Interestingly, rapamycin delayed cell cycle entry of IL-2-sufficient T cells, but did not prevent their expansion. Together, our findings indicate that the TCR, CD28, and IL-2 independently control T cell proliferation via distinct signaling pathways involving PI3K and mTOR. These data suggest that Ag persistence and the availability of costimulatory signals and of autocrine and paracrine growth factors individually shape T lymphocyte expansion in vivo.