Human Th1 and Th2 cells: functional properties, regulation of development and role in autoimmunity

Autoimmunity. 1994;18(4):301-8. doi: 10.3109/08916939409009532.


Evidence has accumulated suggesting the existence in humans of polarized T helper (Th) cell subsets, coded as Th1 and Th2, with defined cytokine secretion profiles. Immune responses to intracellular bacteria and viruses result in the preferential development of the Th1 cell subset. Th1 cells express cytolytic activity against antigen-presenting cells and provide helper function for IgM, IgG and IgA synthesis only at low T/B cell ratios. In contrast, Th2 cells develop in response to allergens or helminth antigens, provide help for all immunoglobulin classes, including IgE, and lack cytolytic potential. The cytokine milieu in the microenvironment plays a fundamental role in determining the functional phenotype of the subsequent antigen-specific Th1 or Th2 responses. In recent years it has become clear that Th1 and Th2 cells play different roles not only in protection against exogenous offending agents, but also immunopathology. Th2 cells are involved in immunopathology induced by helminths and are responsible for the initiation and maintenance of allergic disorders. Th1 cells seem to be involved in contact dermatitis, acute allograft rejection and organ-specific autoimmunity, such as thyroid autoimmune disorders, diabetes mellitus or multiple sclerosis, whereas less polarized patterns of Th cells are detectable in target organs of patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Sjogren's syndrome or systemic lupus erythematosus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Autoimmunity / immunology*
  • Cell Differentiation / immunology*
  • Cytokines / biosynthesis
  • Humans
  • Th1 Cells / immunology*
  • Th2 Cells / immunology*


  • Cytokines