The molecular basis of T helper 1 and T helper 2 cell differentiation

Trends Cell Biol. 2000 Dec;10(12):542-50. doi: 10.1016/s0962-8924(00)01856-0.


Cytokines such as interleukin 12 (IL-12) and IL-4 are dominant factors in driving the development of T helper 1 (Th1) and Th2 cells, respectively, through specific signalling pathways. In addition, it has been demonstrated more recently that T helper-cell-specific transcription factors exist that determine the commitment of Th1 and Th2 cells for the production of distinct profiles of cytokines. In addition to the expression of distinct cytokine genes and transcription factors, the molecular basis for commitment to a Th1 or Th2 phenotype can probably be explained by multiple mechanisms, including differential cytokine signalling, exclusive cytokine receptor expression, differential expression of transcription factors and/or differential chromatin remodelling of Th1- and Th2-specific genes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cytokines / biosynthesis
  • Cytokines / genetics
  • Cytokines / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-12 / metabolism
  • Interleukin-4 / metabolism
  • Models, Biological
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Th1 Cells / cytology
  • Th1 Cells / immunology
  • Th1 Cells / physiology*
  • Th2 Cells / cytology
  • Th2 Cells / immunology
  • Th2 Cells / physiology*
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*


  • Cytokines
  • Transcription Factors
  • Interleukin-12
  • Interleukin-4