The effect of endogenous and exogenous IL-4 on the generation of influenza virus-specific cell-mediated immunity was examined. When added at the onset of the culture, IL-4 augmented both cluster of differentiation (CD)8+ lymphoproliferation and MHC-restricted, influenza virus-specific cytotoxicity. When added 5 or 6 days after initiation of cultures, IL-4 was highly effective at augmenting cytotoxicity, whereas no augmentation of proliferation was observed. This disassociation of the effect of IL-4 on lymphoproliferation and cytotoxicity indicated that IL-4 was providing a late signal in CTL generation. Studied at the level of CTL precursor maturation in microcultures, IL-4 was found not to increase cytotoxicity but to be required, in some cases, for the generation of cytotoxicity. Endogenous IL-4 production was observed and demonstrated to be important because neutralizing antiserum to IL-4 suppressed CTL development. In contrast to the effects of IL-4 when added later to the cultures, pulsing the lymphocytes with IL-4 before, or shortly after, exposure to antigen resulted in suppression of the CTL response. These results indicate that IL-4 has differentiative, proliferative, and suppressive effects on cell-mediated immune responses.