T cell clones were generated from umbelical cord blood lymphocytes (UCBL) of nine newborns with atopic or nonatopic parents and their cytokine secretion profile was assessed. Both phytohemagglutinin-induced and Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus-spetific T cell clones from newborns with atopic parents exhibited an enhanced ability to produce the Th2 cytokines interleukin (IL)-4 and IL-5, compared to T cell clones from newborns with nonatopic parents. In contrast, the ability to produce interferon-γ by UCBL from the two groups of newborns was not different. Of the five children who could be followed up to 3 years after birth, four with atopic parents developed clinical and/or biological atopic manifestations, whereas one without atopic parents did not. Thus, the pronounced production of IL-4 and IL-5 by UCBL not only appears to be related to the atopic status of parents, but also associates with the subsequent development of atopy in childhood.