In the present study we have investigate whether cytokines are constitutively and differently expressed in intestine during the differentiative processes that take place at weaning. We have analyzed the expression of IL-1 beta, IL-2, IL-4 and IFN gamma by polymerase chain reaction in Peyer's patches (PP) and in intestine deprived of PP (I-PP) of rats from 16 to 30 days of age. The results showed a constitutive and marked expression of the cytokines already before weaning, with the exception of IL-2 in PP and IFN gamma in I-PP. IL-beta was the only cytokine to show a different expression at various ages with an initial increase at 19 days and a further elevation at 21 days when intestinal epithelium passes through major differentiative stages, suggesting an involvement of this cytokine in intestinal development. We have also tested whether treatment of rats with the immunosuppressor cyclosporin A (CsA) could affect intestinal differentiation. The results showed that only some markers of differentiation were affected (proliferation of staminal crypt cells and length of crypts). This was probably due to a direct effect rather than an immunomediated effect of CsA, since treatment of three intestinal cell lines (Caco-2, HT-29, FRIC) with CsA indicated that this drug can exert a cytostatic activity on intestinal cells.