The aim of this study was to determine cytokines in human leprosy lesions by means of immunohistologic examination. Cryostat sections of skin biopsies from 57 patients with various forms of leprosy were immunostained according to the APAAP method, using monoclonal antibodies against interleukin-1 beta (IL-1 beta), tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma), and, in addition, against CD 1 antigen. Granulomas in biopsies of untreated patients with tuberculoid leprosy showed large amounts of cells positive for IL-1 beta, TNF-alpha, IFN-gamma, and CD 1, whereas no positive signals could be detected in untreated patients with lepromatous leprosy. However, in those biopsies obtained from lepromatous leprosy patients undergoing chemotherapy, positive staining for cytokines as well as subepidermal Langerhans cells increased to a detectable amount. Remarkably, in tuberculoid leprosy patients, the number of IL-1 beta--positive cells did not vary under therapy, while the number of TNF-alpha and IFN-gamma reactive cells decreased. These results suggest that immunohistologic determination of cytokines in combination with the assessment of subepidermal Langerhans cells in human leprosy lesions may be used as a parameter for the patient's status of cell-mediated immunity under chemotherapeutic treatment.