The pathogenetic mechanisms underlying the development of reactive arthritis and the functional capacities of synovial T cells specific for Yersinia enterocolitica are still unclear. In this study we have determined the cytokine secretion patterns of 24 CD4+ synovial fluid (SF)-derived T cell clones from 2 patients with Yersinia-induced reactive arthritis, 16 clones specific for different Yersinia antigens and 8 clones as controls. The clones specific for Yersinia antigens predominantly belong to the T helper cell 1 (Th1) subset with production of interferon (IFN)-gamma and interleukin (IL)-2, but no IL-4, whereas SF T cells not reactive with Yersinia antigens produce IL-2, IL-4 and IFN-gamma and thus belonged to the Th0 subset. Moreover, short-term T cell lines established from SF and peripheral blood showed the same pattern. To further analyze the functional relevance of these data we investigated the influence of IFN-gamma and IL-4 on the intracellular killing of Yersinia in a human glioblastoma cell line. Our data show that the Th1 cytokine IFN-gamma promotes intracellular killing of Yersinia, whereas this effect is antagonized by the Th2 cytokine IL-4. Furthermore, the Th2 cytokine IL-10 inhibited the antigen-specific proliferative response and IFN-gamma and IL-2 production by the Th1 cells. These results provide insight into the antibacterial mechanisms at work in reactive arthritis after infection with Yersinia enterocolitica and, for the first time, reveal the cross-regulatory properties of cytokines derived from Th1 and Th2 cells in a human immune response to bacterial antigens.