Two-color and three-color flow cytometry was carried out to determine whether the memory T cells (CD45RO+ T cells) play a major role in lymphocyte dysfunction of 26 children with idiopathic nephrotic syndrome (INS). The INS patients were divided into three groups: (1) 10 patients who were not receiving glucocorticoid hormone (GCH) and were suffering from acute nephrotic state were referred to as N1; (2) 8 patients who were in remission maintained by GCH therapy alone were referred to as N2; (3) 8 patients who were free of GCH therapy for at least 4 months were referred to as N3. Group N1 demonstrated a significant increase in the percentage of CD45RO+CD4+ T cells and CD45RO+CD8+ T cells (p < 0.05) compared with 11 controls, and these subsets were noted to have a tendency to decrease to control levels in groups N2 and N3. Furthermore, interleukin-2 receptor-alpha expressed subsets in CD45RO+CD4+ T cells (CD45RO+CD4+CD25+ T cells) were also increased only in group N1 (p < 0.02). A similar tendency of absolute counts was observed in these subsets. These results suggest that activated memory T cells reflect lymphocyte dysfunction at initial onset or relapse in INS children.