The outcome of cutaneous leishmaniasis is dependent on the balance of Th1 and Th2 cells. In the murine model, Th1 cells are host-protective whereas the Th2 cells are disease-promoting. However, the in vivo role of interleukin-4 (IL-4), a signature product of Th2 cells, is uncertain. We compared the course of Leishmania major infection in the genetically resistant 129/Sv mice and the mutant 129/Sv mice transgenic for the murine IL-4 gene under the control of the immunoglobulin heavy chain enhancer and promoter. We report here that in contrast to their wild-type parents, the IL-4 transgenic mice are susceptible to L. major infection. This is associated with the development of inexorably progressive lesions and parasite loads. Spleen cells from infected transgenic mice produced significantly higher levels of IL-4 but lower amounts of interferon-gamma when stimulated in vitro with leishmanial antigens compared to those from infected normal 129/Sv mice. Furthermore, sera from the infected transgenic mice contained higher levels of IL-4 and IgE than the sera of infected normal 129/Sv mice. These results, therefore, establish in a new animal model that IL-4 promotes disease development in murine cutaneous leishmaniasis.