We studied the genetic pattern of inheritance of the ratio between circulating CD4+ and CD8+ T lymphocytes in a population of healthy donors. The distribution of the CD4/CD8 ratio in males and females was significantly different and was significantly affected by age. In 46 randomly selected families, the parental CD4/CD8 ratio significantly influenced the ratio in offspring. Complex segregation analysis of the data rejected the non-genetic hypothesis; among the genetic models tested, a major recessive gene with a polygenic component and random environmental effects was the most parsimonious model. These findings indicate that the ratio of CD4+ and CD8+ T cells is genetically controlled in humans.