T cells are known to develop a critical role in the pathogenesis of atopic dermatitis (AD) and bronchial asthma. T cells involved in AD express the skin homing receptor CLA, but no lung homing receptor has been identified in bronchial asthma. We compared different cell markers and the cytokine production in T cells from children with AD or bronchial asthma. We studied the involvement of CLA+ and CLA- T-cell subpopulations in these diseases. We studied 20 children with acute AD lesions, 15 with mild persistent asthma, and 15 non-atopic controls. All patients were sensitized to house dust mite (DP) and evaluated during the acute phase. Total and specific IgE were measured by immunoassay and the expression of different cell markers and the cytokine production was analyzed by flow cytometry in peripheral blood mononuclear cells. Total IgE was significantly higher in AD children and IgE to DP in the asthmatic children. There was a significant increase in CD25+ CD4+ cells in asthmatic children and in HLA-DR+ CD4+ and HLA-DR+ CD8+ cells in AD. In the CD4+ subsets, there was an increase in IL-13, IL-5 and TNF-alpha in AD compared to controls, a decrease in IFN-gamma in asthmatic children compared to controls, and an increase in IL-13, IL5, IL2, TNF-alpha, and IFN-gamma in the AD compared to asthmatic children. Changes in cytokine production were mainly detected in CLA+ cells in AD and in CLA- cells in asthma. Differences exist in total and specific IgE, activation markers, and cytokine patterns between AD children and children with asthma, with the former expressing a Th2 pattern whereas in asthmatic children we only detected a decrease in IFN-gamma. Moreover, the subpopulations (CLA+ vs. CLA-) expressing these changes were different, indicating that the underlying mechanisms in the two diseases are not exactly the same.