Prior studies in CD4-deficient mice established the capacity of T helper (Th) lineage cells to mature into Th1 cells. Unexpectedly, challenge of these mice with Nippostrongylus brasiliensis, a Th2-inducing stimulus, failed to result in the development of Th2 cells. Additional studies were performed using CD4+ or CD4-CD8- (double-negative) T cell receptor (TCR) transgenic T cells reactive to LACK antigen of Leishmania major. Double-negative T cells were unable to develop into Th2 cells in vivo, and, unlike CD4+ T cells, could not be primed for interleukin-4 production in vitro. Similarly, CD4+ TCR transgenic T cells primed on antigen-presenting cells expressing mutant MHC class II molecules unable to bind CD4 did not differentiate into Th2 cells. These data suggest that interactions between the TCR, MHC II-peptide complex and CD4 may be involved in Th2 development.