Interleukin-12 (IL-12) is a heterodimeric pro-inflammatory cytokine that induces the production of interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma), favours the differentiation of T helper 1 (T(H)1) cells and forms a link between innate resistance and adaptive immunity. Dendritic cells (DCs) and phagocytes produce IL-12 in response to pathogens during infection. Production of IL-12 is dependent on differential mechanisms of regulation of expression of the genes encoding IL-12, patterns of Toll-like receptor (TLR) expression and cross-regulation between the different DC subsets, involving cytokines such as IL-10 and type I IFN. Recent data, however, argue against an absolute requirement for IL-12 for T(H)1 responses. Our understanding of the relative roles of IL-12 and other factors in T(H)1-type maturation of both CD4+ and CD8+ T cells is discussed here, including the participation in this process of IL-23 and IL-27, two recently discovered members of the new family of heterodimeric cytokines.