Early inflammatory responses, delayed-type hypersensitivity (DTH) responses, and cytokine profiles were studied in mice infected by the pulmonary route with either a highly virulent isolate (NU-2) or a weakly virulent isolate (184A) of Cryptococcus neoformans. After infection, NU-2 remained in the lungs and the capsule became more pronounced during the first 24 h, whereas 184A induced an immediate inflammatory reaction and was rapidly cleared from the lungs. Cryptococcal antigen (GXM) appeared in sera early after infection with NU-2 and increased over the entire observation period. There was no detectable GXM in sera from 184A-infected mice. Both C. neoformans isolates induced anticryptococcal cell-mediated immune responses, but the responses had different profiles. DTH in NU-2-infected mice appeared at day 15 after infection and waned by day 21, whereas DTH in 184A-infected mice was present by day 5 and continued to increase. T helper 1 (Th1) cytokines (interleukin 2 [IL-2] and gamma interferon) were made by spleen cells early after infection with either isolate. NU-2-infected mice lost their ability to produce these cytokines, but 184A-infected mice retained it. IL-4, a Th2 cytokine, was not detected in infected mice. The regulatory cytokine IL-10 was made by spleen cells early but not later after infection with the highly virulent isolate and was not produced by spleen cells from 184A-infected mice. IL-10-deficient mice survived an NU-2 infection significantly longer than wild-type mice, suggesting that IL-10 is important in down-regulating the protective immune response. The induction of anergy appears to be responsible for the inability of NU-2-infected mice to control a C. neoformans infection.