A proportion of healthy neonates fail to produce protective levels of anti-HBs antibody following vaccination with recombinant hepatitis B vaccine. This study was undertaken to investigate contribution of Th1 and Th2 responses to anti-HBs antibody production and to explore the mechanism(s) of unresponsiveness to HBsAg in human neonates. Peripheral blood manonuclear cells (PBMCs) were isolated form 28 nonresponder (anti-HBs antibody <10 IU/l) and 25 responder neonates. The cells were stimulated in vitro with recombinant HBsAg and PHA mitogen and concentrations of IL-4, IL-10 and IFN-gamma were quantified in culture supernatants by sandwich ELISA. Our results demonstrated significantly increased production of all cytokines, including IL-4 (P < 0.001), IL-10 (P < 0.002) and IFN-gamma (P < 0.01) in responder compared to nonresponder vaccinees. No significant differences, however, were observed between the two groups of neonates in the levels of cytokines induced by PHA or secreted in absence of antigen and mitogen. Our findings suggest that unresponsiveness to recombinant HBsAg in healthy neonates is linked to inadequate secretion of both Th1 and Th2 cytokines.