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Interleukin 9 (IL-9) is a T-cell derived factor preferentially expressed by CD4+ Th2 cells and it has been characterized both in human and murine systems. It is a pleiotropic cytokine with multiple functions on cells of the lymphoid, myeloid and mast cell lineages, as well as on lung epithelial cells. Other activities described for IL-9 support its contribution to asthma and its important role in helminthic infections, where a Th2 response can be protective and IL-9 enhances resistance or is responsible for elimination of the nematode. Nevertheless, until recently there were no studies on its role in bacterial infections in man. We have demonstrated that cytokines can modulate the specific cytotoxicity generation in peripheral blood mononuclear cells from leprosy patients and normal controls. In the present report we studied the effect of IL-9 in this experimental model. Our results indicate that IL-9 can counteract the negative effect mediated by IL-4 on the generation of M. leprae-induced cytotoxic T lymphocytes. Moreover, it can increase this lytic activity in controls and enhance the stimulatory effect of IL-2 or IL-6 in cells from leprosy patients and controls. IL-9 is also able to revert the inhibitory effect of IL-10 and IL-13 on the M. leprae-induced cytotoxic activity. Although the exact mechanism of action of IL-9 remains to be determined, interferon gamma seems to be required for the effect of IL-9 in this experimental model. These data suggest that IL-9 may have an atypical Th2 behaviour and play a role in the modulation of the immune response to mycobacterial infections.