TH1 and TH2 helper T cell clones have been studied with respect to their sensitivity to inhibition of DNA synthesis by an IgG anti-transferrin receptor antibody (ATRA), the iron chelator deferoxamine, and the combination of the two reagents. TH1 clones are very sensitive to ATRA-mediated inhibition of DNA synthesis while TH2 clones are very resistant, but both TH1 and TH2 clones show significant down-modulation of surface transferrin receptors after ATRA exposure. TH2 clones exhibit larger chelatable iron storage pools than TH1 clones, however, and even partial chelation of TH2 cell storage iron does not fully convert a TH2 clone to the ATRA sensitivity pattern of a TH1 clone. It is therefore proposed that the greater resistance of TH2 clones to ATRA mediated inhibition derives from the combined effects of larger and less labile iron storage pools. These studies provide novel evidence indicating that nonuniform iron metabolism can exist within the T cell compartment and thus raise questions as to why such differences exist and how they can be integrated into models of the T cell activation process. These studies also suggest that the cell-mediated immune response in vivo, which is known to be sensitive to iron deficiency, may be evoked by effector cells which resemble TH1 clones insofar as iron metabolism is concerned.