BACKGROUND: Cytokines play a pivotal role in regulating the development and persistence of the inflammatory process in asthma. Our aim was to investigate whether asthma persistence or remission is associated with a specific cytokine profile. METHODS: The Tasmanian Longitudinal Health Study followed participants from 7 to 44 years of age. Serum concentrations of interleukin (IL)-4, IL-5, IL-6, IL-8, IL-10 and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) were measured at age 44 years. Participants were categorized into five phenotypes (early-onset noncurrent asthma, early-onset current asthma, late-onset noncurrent asthma and late-onset current asthma). Those who had never had asthma formed the reference group. Multivariable linear regression was used to compare serum cytokine concentrations between each phenotype and the reference group. RESULTS: IL-10 concentrations were significantly lower in serum from the early-onset current asthma group than in the reference group (ratio of geometric means 0.58; 95 confidence interval 0.33-0.99; p = 0.048). IL-6 concentrations for the late-onset remitted group were also significantly lower than in the reference group (p = 0.009). The TNF-alpha concentrations were significantly lower for both early-and late-onset remitted asthma phenotypes when compared with the reference group. No associations were detected between serum concentrations of IL-4, IL-5 or IL-8 and these specific longitudinal asthma phenotypes. CONCLUSION: Our findings suggest a possible role for deficient IL-10 responses in the persistence of early-onset asthma. Lower IL-6 and TNF-alpha concentrations in serum from those with remitted asthma suggest that these proinflammatory cytokines may be actively suppressed during asthma remission.