Mycoplasma infection is a leading cause of pneumonia worldwide and can lead to other respiratory complications. A component of mycoplasma respiratory diseases is immunopathologic, suggesting that lymphocyte activation is a key event in the progression of these chronic inflammatory diseases. The present study delineates the changes in T cell populations and their activation after mycoplasma infection and determines their association with the pathogenesis of murine Mycoplasma respiratory disease, due to Mycoplasma pulmonis infection. Increases in T cell population numbers in lungs and lower respiratory lymph nodes were associated with the development of mycoplasma respiratory disease. Although both pulmonary Th and CD8+ T cells increased after mycoplasma infection, there was a preferential expansion of Th cells. Mycoplasma-specific Th2 responses were dominant in lower respiratory lymph nodes, while Th1 responses predominated in spleen. However, both mycoplasma-specific Th1 and Th2 cytokine (IL-4 and IFN-γ) responses were present in the lungs, with Thl cell activation as a major component of the pulmonary Th cell response. Although a smaller component of the T cell response, mycoplasma-specific CD8+ T cells were also a significant component of pulmonary lymphoid responses. In vivo depletion of CD8+ T cells resulted in dramatically more severe pulmonary disease, while depletion of CD4+ T cells reduced its severity, but there was no change in mycoplasma numbers in lungs after cell depletion. Thus, mycoplasma-specific Thl and CD8+ T cell activation in the lung plays a critical regulatory role in development of immunopathologic reactions in Mycoplasma respiratory disease.