Cellular and mediator profiles in bronchoalveolar lavage have not been compared systematically between patients with asthma of different severities, mainly because the patients with more severe asthma have an increased need for antiinflammatory medication. Information is limited to comparisons of allergic and intrinsic asthma, which can be distinguished clinically. When patients from these two groups with similar degrees of bronchial hyperresponsiveness were compared, both groups showed increased numbers of activated T-helper lymphocytes; those in the allergic group expressed the IL-2 receptor (CD25+), whereas in patients with intrinsic asthma there was also an increased number of T-suppressor cells with the activation markers CD25, class II histocompatibility antigen, and very late activation antigen-I, as well as T-helper cells class II histocompatibility antigen and very late activation antigen-I. This pattern is compatible with a more chronic T-cell activation in patients with intrinsic asthma. In patients with allergic asthma the cytokine pattern is compatible with a pure TH2 response (elevated IL-4 and IL-5); however, intrinsic asthma is characterized by elevated IL-5 and IL-2 but not IL-4. Our own findings show similar concentrations of IL-1, IL-8, and granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid of patients with allergic and intrinsic asthma, whereas IL-6 and interferon-gamma tended to be higher in patients with intrinsic asthma. There are probably fundamental differences in the pathogenesis of allergic and intrinsic asthma. These findings suggest that asthma does not depend on the presence of IgE or IL-4, although both may contribute to the pathogenesis of atopic asthma. The only common pathway in the different presentations of asthma that has been related to clinical symptoms appears to be IL-5-mediated activation of eosinophils; therapies aimed at this mechanism may be promising.