BALB/c and anti-IL-12-treated C3H mice infected with Leishmania major develop a Th2 cell response. However, in contrast to BALB/c mice, C3H mice treated transiently with an anti-IL-12 monoclonal antibody switch from a Th2 to a Th1 response and resolve their lesions once treatment is terminated. We report here that the critical difference in the Th2 response between BALB/c and C3H mice is in their ability to respond to IL-12. Thus, C3H mice with a Th2 response maintain a CD4+ T cell population that expresses IL-12 receptor beta1 and beta2 mRNA and produces IFN-gamma after exposure to IL-12. These results indicate that Th2 cell populations from different genetic backgrounds differ in their stability, and that this difference can be related to differential regulation of the IL-12 receptor.