Understanding the physiological role of CD30 would be an important step forward in transplants because CD30+ T cells can be induced by alloantigens even in the presence of immunosuppressives such as cyclosporine (Csa) and hence can act as regulatory cells in allograft. The results of functional studies on purified T CD30+ cell populations led us to hypothesize that the CD30 costimulator molecule is not a specific marker for TH2 cells in normal conditions, as has been suggested, but rather a marker for an important immunoregulatory subpopulation that regulates the balance between TH1 and TH2 (TH1/TH2) type response. To substantiate this hypothesis we studied the TH1/TH2 cytokine network in peripheral whole blood cultures stimulate with M44 CD30 ligand (CD30L), an agonistic monoclonal antibody (mAb). Four types of whole blood culture were used: the first had been stimulated with anti-CD3 mAb which generates a CD30 cytokine profile similar to alloreactive stimulation; the second with anti-CD3 mAb+M81 (an anti-CD30L mAb) to inhibit CD30/CD30L interaction; the third with anti-CD3+anti-interleukin (IL)4 mAbs to counteract IL4 activity and the fourth with anti-CD3+anti-interferon (IFN)gamma mAbs to counteract IFNgamma activity. Network interactions between soluble CD30 (sCD30, a maker of CD30 expression), sBcl2 (a marker of cell survival) and TH1/TH2 cytokines (IFNgamma, IL2, IL12p70, IL12p40, IL4, IL5 and IL10) were then studied in the supernatants obtained. Our results confirm the hypothesis above by showing that CD30 signals trigger functional mechanisms responsible for changes in levels of production of several important TH1 and TH2 cytokines involved in the regulation of the physiological balance between TH1/TH2 functions. The CD30-stimulated network, in fact, induces IFNgamma production linked to TH1 activity (-->TH1) which is subsequently integrated by IL4 production linked to TH2 activity (-->TH2). This production appears to be regulated, respectively, by IL12p40 (-->TH2) and IL12p70 (-->TH1) production which could maintain the balance between TH1/TH2 type response (TH1<-->TH2). Further CD30 mechanisms are the regulation of the interactions between: IL5-IFNgamma, IL5-IL4, IL2-IL10, IL2-IL12p40 and IL10-IL12p70 production. The immunoregulatory activity of CD30 was confirmed by the lack of production balance between the above-mentioned cytokines observed in cultures in which the interaction between CD30 and its natural ligand (CD30/CD30L) and IL4 or IFNgamma activity had been blocked. We therefore conclude that CD30 may be an important costimulatory molecule and marker for the physiological balance between TH1/TH2 immune response. Consequently, further study of CD30 immunoregulatory mechanisms may allow for the identification of methods for re-establishing equilibrium and hence more effective strategies for the prevention and treatment of immunopathological conditions such as transplant rejection.