Host defense mechanisms against vaginal Candida albicans infections are poorly understood. Despite the protective role of T helper (Th)1-type cell-mediated immunity (CMI) against mucosal C. albicans infections, studies using an estrogen-dependent murine model of vaginal candidiasis have shown a lack of effect of systemic Th1-type CMI against a vaginal C. albicans infection, and a lack of changes in local T cells during infection. In the present study, the local Thl- (interleukin [IL]-2, interferon [IFN]-gamma and IL-12) and Th2- (IL-4, IL-10 and transforming growth factor [TGF]-beta1) type cytokines were evaluated in vaginal tissue during an experimental C. albicans infection. Results showed constitutive expression of TGF-beta1 in vaginal tissue of naive mice that was two-fold higher than the levels of the other cytokines examined. These high levels of TGF-beta1 were further increased as a result of pseudoestrus and/or infection, and were corroborated at the messenger RNA level. Furthermore, the levels of TGF-beta in naive or infected mice were significantly higher in the vagina compared to other areas of the genital tract. Finally, TGF-beta1 predominated as well in the draining, but not non-draining, lymph nodes during infection. These results suggest that TGF-beta1, a potent immunoregulatory cytokine, may be important in the lack of demonstrable CMI at the vaginal mucosa against C. albicans.