The balance of Th1 (eg, interleukin-2 (IL-2)) and Th2 (eg, IL-4) cytokines produced by CD4 T cells markedly influences the outcome of the adaptive immune response. Although octamer transcription factor proteins increase IL-2 transcription in T cells, their role in IL-4 gene transcription remains controversial. We have previously shown and now confirm that the proximal octamer binding site of the human IL-4 promoter, which separates the two most proximal NFAT binding sites, is bound prior to, but not after, activation in vivo. Since these two NFAT sites are essential for optimal IL-4 promoter activity, this suggested that prior engagement by octamer proteins might prevent adjacent NFAT binding and inhibit IL-4 gene transcription. In support of this hypothesis, here we show that NFAT proteins are unable to bind to a combined octamer/NFAT site unless the octamer proteins are competed away. Moreover, activity of an IL-4 reporter gene mutated in the proximal octamer binding site is increased compared to the wild-type promoter in human peripheral blood CD4 T cells. In addition, over-expression of either Oct-1 or Oct-2 decreased wild-type IL-4 promoter activity, while increasing IL-2 promoter activity. No decrease in promoter activity was seen when Oct-1 or Oct-2 was over-expressed with the octamer-mutant IL-4 reporter gene. Thus, octamer proteins are candidates to promote a Th1 rather than Th2 pattern of cytokine gene expression by activated CD4 T cells.