Cord blood (CB) as a new source for bone marrow transplantation represents advantageous features concerning stem cell and leucocyte compartments and function. We attempted to get more information about the phenotypes and function of CB cells by investigating their cell surface markers and also the production of IL-2, IFN-gamma and IL-6 by mitogen and alloantigen stimulation. The CB cells were characterized by a low proportion of CD3+ T cells, CD4+ T subpopulation, activated T cells and CD3+CD16/CD56+ cytotoxic cells, suggesting reduced graft versus host potential. The significant increase of CD19/CD3 double positive cells and decrease of CD19/HLA-DR double positive mature B cells reflect that immature B cells exist in CB. In the functional studies, a 27- and 5-fold reduction was observed in the production of IFN-gamma by CB cells stimulated with PHA and allogeneic cells, respectively. The production of IL-2 in PHA-stimulated CB cells also showed a 50% determination. Decrease in the production of these cytokines by CB cells is supported by the decline of the proportion of CD3+ T cells. However, an increase was observed in the production of IL-6 by CB cells stimulated with allogeneic cells as compared with the controls. These results suggest a difference in the functional activity of the T helper cell subsets between the CB and peripheral blood and/or differences in the functional maturity of T helper cell subsets and B cells in these compartments.