Lymphocyte recruitment from blood into the lymph node is thought to be initiated by the presence of antigen. In this study, we have used lymphatic cannulation in sheep to demonstrate that the adjuvant ISCOMATRIX can induce dramatic lymph node activation in the absence of antigen. Consistent patterns of node shutdown (decreased output) and cell recruitment (increased output) with minimal blast cell responses were observed indicating that an antigen-specific immune response is not required. Production of IL-6, IL-8 and IFN-gamma, and the transient presence of red blood cells and neutrophils in the efferent lymph were associated with changes in efferent lymph cell trafficking. These early events may facilitate the screening of low frequency antigen-specific cells for binding to antigen and the subsequent amplification of the immune response.