Immune responses are normally targeted against microbial pathogens and not self-antigens by mechanisms that are only partly understood. Here we define a newly discovered pathway that prevents autoimmunity by limiting the levels on T lymphocytes of a co-stimulatory receptor, the inducible T-cell co-stimulator (ICOS). In sanroque mice homozygous for an M199R mutation in the ROQ domain of Roquin (also known as Rc3h1)(1), increased Icos expression on T cells causes the accumulation of lymphocytes that is associated with a lupus-like autoimmune syndrome. Roquin normally limits Icos expression by promoting the degradation of Icos messenger RNA. A conserved segment in the unusually long ICOS 39 untranslated mRNA is essential for regulation by Roquin. This segment comprises a 47-base-pair minimal region complementary to T-cell-expressed microRNAs including miR-101, the repressive activity of which is disrupted by base-pair inversions predicted to abrogate miR-101 binding. These findings illuminate a critical post-transcriptional pathway within T cells that regulates lymphocyte accumulation and autoimmunity, and highlights the therapeutic potential of partially antagonising the ICOS pathway.