The object of the study was to determine whether male and female sex steroids produce divergent effects on Th1 and Th2 cytokine release following trauma-haemorrhage. Recent studies indicate that androgens are responsible for the depressed splenocyte Th1 cytokine release in males following trauma-haemorrhage. In contrast, female mice maintain their Th1 cytokine release capacity following trauma-haemorrhage. Nonetheless, the effect of male and female sex steroids on Th1 and Th2 cytokine release following trauma-haemorrhage remains unknown. Male C3H/HeN mice were castrated and treated with pellets containing either vehicle, 5α-dihydrotestosterone (DHT), 17β-estradiol (estradiol), or a combination of both steroid hormones, for 14 days prior to soft-tissue trauma (i.e. laparotomy) and haemorrhagic shock (35 ± 5 mmHg for 90 min followed by adequate fluid resuscitation) or sham operation. Untreated male and female mice, as well as DHT treated female mice, served as control groups. Twenty-four hours later the animals were sacrificed, plasma obtained and splenocytes harvested. Plasma DHT and estradiol levels in treated animals were comparable with intact male and female mice, respectively. A significant depression of splenocyte Th1 cytokines, i.e. IL-2, IFN-γ, was observed in DHT treated castrated animals, DHT treated females, and untreated males following trauma-haemorrhage, as opposed to maintained Th1 cytokine release in estradiol treated and estradiol/DHT treated castrated animals and females. The release of the anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-10 was markedly increased in DHT treated mice and males subjected to trauma-haemorrhage compared to shams, but decreased in estrogen treated mice and females under such conditions. These results suggest that male and female sex steroids differentially affect the release of Th1 and Th2 cytokines following trauma-haemorrhage and should be further studied for their potential to modulate splenocyte function in trauma victims. © 2001 Academic Press.