We investigated surface antigens and spontaneous cytokine production of T cells from broncho-alveolar lavage fluid (BALF) and aqueous humor (AH) from pulmonary sarcoidosis patients for a better understanding of the role of T cells in granuloma formation. The levels of CD3, CD11b, and CD28 antigen expression on freshly isolated T cells in the BALF of patients were significantly lower than those in peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBL) of either sarcoidosis patients or healthy donors (HD). In contrast, the levels of CD80 (B7/B7-1) and CD86 (B70/B7-2) antigen expression were significantly higher on these T cells and alveolar macrophages in the BALF of patients. Fifty-three T cell clones (TCC) established from the BALF and AH of the three sarcoidosis patients displayed primarily either CD4+ CD11b+ CD28+ or CD4+ CD11b- CD28- phenotypes. Most (61–90%) of these TCC spontaneously produced greater amounts of IL-1a, IL-10, tumour necrosis factor (TNF), and granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) than did TCC from the PBL from sarcoidosis patients or HD (P < 0·05). Interferon-gamma (IFN-γ), IL-6, and IL-2, but not IL-4, were also produced by 40–48% of these TCC. These results suggest that CD4+ T cells of the affected organs of sarcoidosis patients are activated and involved in the immunopathogenesis of sarcoidosis through production of various cytokines.