Cell-mediated immunity is important for anti-Candida host defence in mucosal tissues. In this study we used cytokine-specific gene knockout mice to investigate the requirement for T helper type 1 (Th1) and Th2 cytokines in recovery from oral candidiasis. Knockout mice used in this study included interleukin-4 (IL-4), IL-10, IL-12p40, interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma), and tumour necrosis factor (TNF). The mice were challenged either orally or systemically with Candida albicans yeasts, and levels of colonization were determined. IL-12p40 knockout mice developed chronic oropharyngeal candidiasis, but were not more susceptible to systemic challenge. On the other hand, TNF knockout mice displayed increased susceptibility to both oral and systemic challenge, but only in the acute stages of infection. TNF apparently has a protective effect in the acute stages of both oral and systemic candidiasis, whereas IL-12p40 is essential for recovery from oral but not systemic candidiasis. The role of IL-12p40, and its relation to T-cell-mediated responses remain to be determined.