CD4 T helper (Th) cell differentiation defined by in vitro cytokine-directed culture systems leaves major gaps in our knowledge of the mechanisms driving divergent Th differentiation. This is evident from our analysis of the response of mouse ovalbumin-specific CD4 T cells to different forms of ovalbumin that induce markedly distinct responses in vivo. We show that live attenuated ovalbumin-expressing Salmonella (SalOVA) induce Th1-associated T-bet and IFN-gamma. Conversely, alum-precipitated ovalbumin (alumOVA) induces the Th2-associated GATA-3 and IL-4. The early diversity occurring within these CD4 T cells isolated 3 days after immunization was assessed using real-time RT-PCR microfluidic cards designed with 384 selected genes. The technique was validated both at the population and single cell levels at different stages of the responses, showing beta2-microglobulin to be a more stably expressed reference mRNA than either beta-actin or 18S RNA. SalOVA was then shown selectively to induce the OVA-specific CD4 T cells to produce many chemokines and pro-inflammatory cytokines, contrasting with alumOVA-induced cells that only produced a few Th2-associated cytokines. Several cytokines and features associated with follicular helper functions were induced in the OVA-specific CD4 T cells by both antigens. Finally, IL-17RB is strongly associated with OVA-specific CD4 T cells responding to alumOVA, suggesting that alum may promote Th2 immune response through a role for the IL-25/IL-17RB pathway.