The aim of this work was to characterize a leucocyte-differentiation antigen or chemokine receptor that allows the identification of type 1 (T helper 1 (Th1), Tc1) and type 2 (Th2, Tc2) lymphocytes in short-term-cultured human peripheral blood mononuclear cells. In addition, we assessed the type of response induced by mycobacterial antigens in tuberculosis patients and healthy contacts. Cells were stimulated with an unfractionated culture filtrate or 30 kDa antigen from Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Then, CD4 and CD8 cell labelling was combined with CD30, CD27, CD28, CD45RA or CD45R0 staining, detection of intracellular interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) or interleukin-4 (IL-4) and analysis by three-colour flow cytometry. In separate experiments, the expression of different chemokine receptors (CCR1, CCR3, CCR5, CXCR3 and CXCR4) was also studied. We found that none of the cell-surface molecules studied was preferentially expressed by Th1 or Th2 cells. Thus, our results indicate that these lymphocyte subsets cannot be identified in short-term-cultured mononuclear cells on the basis of preferential expression of the cell markers studied, and that it is necessary to look for additional molecules that allow the discrimination of Th1 and Th2 cells.