The properties of human CD45RA and CD45RO T cells are described. CD45RO cells respond to recall antigens and provide help for B lymphocytes. They produce a wide variety of cytokines including IL-2, IL-4 and IFN-gamma. CD45RA T cells respond poorly to recall antigens and produce mainly IL-2. The phenotype of CD45RO cells suggests that they may be in cycle and in vivo data shows that they have a short lifespan while CD45RA cells are long-lived. The lineage relationship of the two subsets is not clear but in vivo and in vitro evidence suggests bi-directional conversion between CD45RA and CD45RO phenotypes.