The in vitro proliferative responses of macaque peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) to IL-12 appeared similar before and early after SIV infection, whereas macaque PBMCs sampled during symptomatic stages of SIV infection showed markedly decreased responses. IL-12 was administered to SIVmac239-infected rhesus macaques either during the asymptomatic or the AIDS stage of infection in efforts to evaluate the effect of this cytokine on immune responses, viral loads, and hematopoietic functions in vivo. IFN-gamma secretion levels induced during the asymptomatic or early symptomatic phase were similar to preinfection induced levels, whereas in later AIDS stages this response was lost. The constitutive levels of other measured cytokines were not affected by IL-12 administration in vivo. The frequency and activity of circulating NK cells were markedly enhanced at early stages but not at symptomatic stages of SIV infection. pCTL frequencies were enhanced at early symptomatic stages but not at late AIDS stages. Despite its immunomodulatory effect, IL-12 did not seem to exacerbate or inhibit the replication of SIV in vivo, or the frequency of circulating infected lymphocytes. IL-12 administration was associated with a significant yet subclinical and transient decrease in hematocrit and hemoglobin levels without evidence of hemolysis, hemodilution, or reduction in the frequency of colony-forming unit potential of bone marrow CD34+ cells. This phenomenon may be explained by a functional inhibition of differentiation rather than an altered generation of bone marrow precursors. Thus, these results suggest that IL-12 may benefit HIV-1-infected patients only as long as their immune system retains its capability to respond to cytokine stimulation.