Effector CD4+ T cells rapidly activate high-level cytokine expression following TCR stimulation. Consistent with accelerated protein production in these cells, global mRNA profiles revealed that, after cytokines, the most impressive cluster of activated genes encode rRNA-maturation factors. Activation of these genes was ERK-MAPK dependent, accompanied by increased rRNA transcription and faster maturation kinetics, and much greater in effector CD4+ T cells than in naive cells. Ribosomal protein subunit (RPS) synthesis was also ERK-MAPK dependent and increased to match rRNA production, but without evident increase in RPS mRNA. Instead, stimulation promoted polysome loading of RPS mRNA via cis-acting, 5'-terminal oligopyrimidines. These results demonstrate how, in response to extracellular signals, effector CD4+ T cells coordinately increase multiple ribosomal components to accommodate burgeoning cytokine production.