The IL-2 system which involves IL-2 production, IL-2 receptor expression, and response to IL-2, is associated with autoimmune phenomena. Immunological abnormalities including autoimmune phenomena are believed to contribute to the pathogenesis of IDDM. In this study, the production of IL-2, the responses to IL-2 and IL-2 receptor expression by peripheral blood T lymphocytes were compared in IDDM and normal non-diabetic children. The percentage of IL-2 receptor-positive circulating T cells was significantly increased in diabetic children, although IL-2 receptor expression induced by con A stimulation did not differ in the diabetic and control children. IL-2 production was significantly decreased in diabetic children compared with the control children. The response of stimulated T cells to IL-2 did not differ in IDDM and control children. In IDDM, IL-2 production by CD4-positive T lymphocytes within the IL-2 system is thought to be selectively defective. On the other hand, IL-4, which is also produced by CD4-positive T lymphocytes, was increased. Since IL-4 did not suppress IL-2 production, it would seem that the IL-2 producing subset in CD4+HLA-DR+ T cells is decreased in IDDM. These results suggest that in recent onset IDDM, IL-2 receptor-positive circulating T cells require an IL-2 supply.