The fate of the contact sensitizer fluorescein isothiocyanate was traced by means of fluorescence spectrophotometry and flow cytometry. The hapten applied to one ear rapidly entered the circulation by way of local lymphatics and blood vessels. It was dispersed for several hours essentially as free hapten, released from a reservoir left behind at the site. Hapten molecules coupled to plasma proteins while circulating and reacted with white blood cells. Total cells of regional lymph nodes, spleen, and distant lymph nodes became fluorescent in successive order. Fluorescence of CD11c-positive dendritic cells exceeded significantly that of lymphoid cells. Total spleen cells and total nonregional lymph node cells were shown in vitro to drive committed lymph node cells to proliferation. The mechanism disclosed is proposed to counterbalance the action of epidermal Langerhans cells for regulation of contact hypersensitivity.