Abstract Sulfamethoxazole hypersensitivity may be caused by production of the protein-reactive metabolite nitroso sulfamethoxazole (SMX-NO) and interaction of SMX-NO with T-cells. We have characterised the nature of the immune response induced by administration of sulfamethoxazole, sulfamethoxazole metabolites and nitrosobenzene to BALB/c mice. Drugs were administered over a 13-day period to induce polarised cytokine secretion profiles. Proliferation was measured by [ 3H] thymidine incorporation. Cytokine secretion was monitored by ELISA. Results were compared with those provoked by exposure to type 1 and type 2 chemical allergens, 2,4-dinitrochlorobenzene (DNCB) and trimellitic anhydride (TMA). CD4 + or CD8 + T-cells were depleted ex vivo to identify the primary source of cytokines. Lymph node activation was observed following treatment with DNCB, TMA, nitrosobenzene and SMX-NO, but not with sulfamethoxazole or sulfamethoxazole hydroxylamine (SMX-NHOH). DNCB and TMA induced type 1 and type 2 cytokine profiles, respectively. SMX-NO treatment stimulated the production of high levels of IL-5, variable amounts of IFN-γ, and relatively low levels of IL-10 and IL-4. Nitrosobenzene-activated lymph node cells secreted only low levels of IFN-γ and IL-5. Depletion of CD4 + or CD8 + T-cells from SMX-NO stimulated lymph node cells revealed that CD4 + T-cells were the major source of IL-5. In conclusion, the data presented indicates that subcutaneous administration to mice of SMX-NO, but not the parent drug, stimulated the secretion of high levels of IL-5 from activated CD4 + T-cells, which is consistent with the clinical profile of the drug.