Multiple sclerosis has been postulated to be an autoimmune disease in which Th1 immune responses predominate. This response is associated with an increased production of IFNgamma and IL12 produced by T cells and by cells of the monocyte (MO) lineage, respectively. An increased expression of costimulatory molecules by T cells and antigen-presenting cells is also observed. We hypothesized that in relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS) (with or without of IFNbeta treatment) and in secondary progressive patients (SPMS) IL12 and costimulatory molecules (CD80 [B7-1], CD86 [B7-2], CD28, CD40, CD40L) would be differentially produced or expressed by MO or T cells. We performed cross-sectional and longitudinal flow cytometric studies (at monthly intervals) on peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) or on MO from SPMS or untreated and IFNbeta-treated patients with RRMS. We determined that CD86 and CD40L expression was highest on MO derived from SPMS patients compared to those from RRMS or from healthy controls (HC). In vitro culture of PBMC with recombinant human IL10, a cytokine that may be increased in response to treatment with IFNbeta and that down-regulates CD86 expression, reduced the expression of CD86 on MO derived from RRMS patients to a much higher degree compared to cells derived from SPMS or HC. In vitro secreted IL12 levels from freshly isolated MO from SPMS patients were more than 10-fold higher than either the treated or the untreated RRMS or HC. RRMS patients treated with IFNbeta demonstrated slightly lower levels of MO IL12 secretion. Our data suggest that a key mechanism in the pathogenesis of MS is the increased expression of CD86 and CD40L and the increased production of IL12 during disease progression. Part of the mechanism of action of IFNbeta may be to reduce MO CD86 and CD40L expression and IL12 secretion; failure to do so might signify either a lack of response or a transition to a more progressive phase of illness.