Autoimmune responses are controlled by complex regulatory circuits. Previous work has revealed that factors controlling autoimmunity can act both as potentiating and inhibitory agents, depending upon the site and timing of exposure. Recent advances in this complex field have at least partially uncovered the mechanism whereby these regulatory molecules participate in autoimmune processes. IL-12 production in the absence of infection may predispose to autoimmunity. IL-4 and transforming growth factor beta may suppress autoreactive T cells. Proinflammatory cytokines may ameliorate autoimmunity, dependent on the timing and level of production. In many cases, cytokines may act via antigen-presenting cells.