We report on the characteristics of cells in the cutaneous lesions and blood of 21 patients with lepromatous, tuberculoid, and intermediate forms of leprosy. A large proportion of the infiltrates in lepromatous lesions consist of macrophages heavily parasitized with Mycobacterium leprae. The T cells in the lesions are devoid of OKT4/Leu 3a-positive ("helper") cells and consist almost exclusively of OKT8/Leu 2a-positive ("suppressor") populations. In contrast, the tuberculoid infiltrates contain well-organized epithelioid and giant-cell granulomas and only remnants of bacilli, and the predominant T cell is from the OKT4/Leu 3a-positive subset. In both tuberculoid and lepromatous infiltrates, T cells and macrophages expressed HLA-DR antigen. No marked alteration in the distribution of blood T-cell phenotypes was noted. We conclude that there is a marked difference between T-cell subsets in lepromatous and tuberculoid infiltrates, which may influence the microbicidal activity of macrophages in the lesions.