CD4+ T lymphocytes play a major role in regulation of adaptive immunity. Upon activation, naïve T cells differentiate into different functional subsets. In addition to the classical Th1 and Th2 cells, several novel effector T cell subsets have been recently identified, including Th17 cells. There has been rapid progress in characterizing the development and function of Th17 cells. Here I summarize and discuss on the genetic controls of their differentiation and emerging evidence on their plasticity. This information may benefit understanding and treating immune diseases.