There is growing evidence to suggest a regulatory role of IL-4 in the immune system affecting both proliferation and lymphokine production. In the present work we have analyzed the effect of IL-4 on IL-2 and IFN-gamma synthesis by stimulating CD4+ human T cells (+10% accessory cells) with Con A in the presence of several doses (1 to 100 U/ml) of human rIL-4. The results showed an impaired IL-2 and IFN-gamma synthesis in the presence of IL-4. This inhibition was dose dependent and was evident only when IL-4 was added in the first 2 h of culture. Moreover, the external addition of IL-2 did not revert the inhibitory effect of IL-4 on IL-2 and IFN-gamma synthesis induced by Con A. We have also analyzed the effect of IL-4 on the expression of both alpha- and beta-chains of the IL-2R. Although the expression of IL-2R alpha mRNA was not modified after 6 h in culture in the presence of IL-4, a decrease was observed at 24 and 48 h. The addition of rIL-2 showed that the inhibition in IL-2R alpha expression could be explained by an impairment in the up-regulatory signal transmitted through the IL-2R. In addition to this, IL-4 did not modify the IL-2R beta mRNA expression at 6 and 24 h although a decreased expression was observed at 48 h which could be explained by the defective IL-2 production. The differential effect of IL-4 on the up-regulatory effect of IL-2 in the expression of IL-2R alpha and IL-2R beta suggest the existence of different regulatory mechanisms acting on the expression of both chains.