To determine whether there was a specific inflammatory process in severe asthmatics, the phenotypic characteristics of induced sputum immune cells were analysed among patients with severe asthma. Twenty-two induced sputa (10 severe asthmatics) were studied. Flow cytometric analysis was performed using immune cells of the sputum and monoclonal antibodies to CD3, CD4, CD8, CD56, CD25, and TCRgammadelta. The number of NKT (CD3(+) CD56(+)) cells was significantly higher in the sputum of severe asthmatics compared with mild asthmatic and healthy control groups (P < .05). CD8(+)CD56(+) cells were the predominant subtype of the increased NKT cells in severe asthmatics. CD3(+)CD56(+)Valpha24(+), TCRgammadelta(+) CD56(+), and CD4(+)CD25(+) T cells were significantly increased in severe asthmatic patients. These results suggest that the immunopathogenesis of severe asthmatics vary between severe and mild asthmatics, and that CD8(+)CD56(+) NKT cells may play an important role in the immunopathogenesis of severe asthma.