Lymphocyte subpopulations analysis by an 11-monoclonal antibody (MoAb) panel was carried out in pleural fluid and in peripheral blood in 30 patients affected by newly diagnosed, untreated pleural effusion of different etiology determinated with bacteriological, cytological or histological criteria. Lymphocytes were the predominant cell type, in pleural fluid, in neoplastic pleural effusions as well as in congestive heart failure pleural effusions and, especially, in tuberculous pleural effusions. Lymphocyte analysis in pleural fluid and in peripheral blood suggests the involvement of different mechanisms for the lymphocyte accumulation in the pleural space according to different etiologies. Tuberculous pleural effusions showed an evident CD4+ and TEC T5.9+ lymphocyte accumulation from peripheral blood. In these patients, cutaneous skin test response to purified protein derivative was strongly related to this situation. In neoplastic pleural effusions there was a lower percentage of CD4+ lymphocytes, reflecting circulating lymphocyte pool; however, in neoplastic pleural effusions, various lymphocyte patterns may be sometimes observed depending on different histologies. Passive lymphocyte accumulation seems to be the most important mechanism in congestive-heart-failure pleural effusions.