The effects of cold stress, immunization and genetic selection on the expression of mRNA for cytokine genes in poultry have not been completely elucidated. Therefore, in the present experiment, using real-time quantitative RT-PCR, we evaluated the effect of cold stress and immunization with complete Freund's adjuvant (CFA) on expression of mRNA for pro-inflammatory (interleukin-1beta [IL-1β], IL-6, IL-12β), Th1 (IFN-γ and IL-2), and Th2 (IL-4 and IL-10) cytokine genes in peripheral blood leukocytes (PBL) of chicken lines divergently selected for either high or low antibody responses. Irrespective of the duration, cold stress enhanced expression of mRNA for IL-1β, IL-6, IL-12β and IL-4 cytokine genes in both selection lines. These results indicate that cold stress stimulates both the innate and parts of the adaptive cellular immune system. Immunization with CFA resulted in higher expression of mRNA for pro-inflammatory cytokines and lower expression of mRNA for both Th1 and Th2 cytokines.