Interleukin-13 (IL-13) shares many, but not all, of the properties of the prototypic T-helper type 2 (Th2) cytokine IL-4, but its role in allergen-driven T-cell responses remains poorly defined. We hypothesized that allergen stimulation of peripheral blood T cells from patients with atopic disease compared with non-atopic controls results in elevated IL-13 synthesis in the context of a 'Th2-type' pattern. Freshly isolated peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) obtained from sensitized atopic patients with allergic disease, and non-atopic control subjects, were cultured with the allergens Phleum pratense (Timothy grass pollen) or Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus (house dust mite) and the non-allergenic recall antigen Mycobacterium tuberculosis purified protein derivative (PPD). Supernatant concentrations of IL-13, along with IL-5 and interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) (Th2- and Th1-type cytokines, respectively) were determined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Allergen-induced IL-13 and IL-5 production by T cells from patients with allergic disease was markedly elevated (P = 0.0075 and P = 0.0004, respectively) compared with non-atopic controls, whereas IFN-gamma production was not significantly different. In contrast to allergen, the prototypic Th1-type antigen M. tuberculosis PPD induced an excess of IFN-gamma over IL-13 and IL-5 production, and absolute concentrations of cytokines were not affected by the presence or absence of atopic disease. Addition of exogenous recombinant IFN-gamma or IL-12, cytokines known to inhibit Th2-type responses, significantly inhibited allergen-driven production of both IL-13 and IL-5, but not T-cell proliferation, whereas exogenous IL-4 did not significantly affect production of IL-13 or IL-5. We conclude that allergen-specific T cells from atopic subjects secrete elevated quantities of IL-13 compared with non-atopic controls, in the context of a Th2-type pattern of cytokine production.