The percentage of cells of different T-cell subsets and their functions in tuberculous pleural effusion were investigated. The percentage of OKT4-positive cells was 65 +/- 2% (mean +/- SEM, n = 8) and that of OKT8-positive cells was 19 +/- 3% (n = 8). Pleural T lymphocytes of patients with tuberculous pleurisy responded well to stimulation with purified protein derivative of tuberculin, and deoxyribonucleic acid synthesis was observed along with gamma interferon (IFN-gamma) production. When pleural T lymphocytes of patients with tuberculous pleurisy were treated with OKT4 monoclonal antibody and complement, a significant decrease in IFN-gamma production was observed in all eight patients (P less than 0.005), whereas no definite decrease in IFN-gamma production was found after treatment with OKT8 monoclonal antibody and complement. These results suggest that at least the OKT4+/OKT8- T-cell subset is responsible for the antigen-specific IFN-gamma production in pleural T lymphocytes of patients with tuberculous pleurisy.