Vaccination of C57BL/6 mice with irradiated cercariae of Schistosoma mansoni results in the induction of high levels of immunity to subsequent infection. The events occurring in the lymph nodes draining the exposure site have been analysed ex vivo by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and the timing of cytokine gene expression following exposure has been established. After vaccination, spatial separation of the T-helper type 1 (Th1) and Th2 responses was evident, with interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma), interleukin-2 (IL-2) and IL-12 mRNA peaking earlier than mRNA for IL-4, IL-5 and IL-10. In contrast to the profiles observed post-vaccination, following challenge the IL-4 mRNA was predominant in the draining lymph nodes, with IFN-gamma message levels barely detectable above the naive level. These observations are confirmed by the analysis of IL-4 and IFN-gamma mRNA using competitive PCR. From these studies it is clear that irradiated cercariae are more able to promote a protective Th1 response, with normal parasites eliciting higher IL-4 and IL-5 expression upon both primary and secondary stimulation.