In order to investigate the capability of an autochthonous bacterium to modulate the host's immune response against the indigenous microfiora, the immunogenicity of two selected bacterial species of the human gut was investigated in a gnotobiotic rat model. Germ-free (GF) rats were monoassociated with either Bifidobacterium (B.) adolescentis or Bacteroides (B.) thetaiotaomicron and the development of bacteria-specific IgG and IgA in serum and specific secretory IgA (sIgA) in feces of the animals were measured. Knowing the antibody levels in gnotobiotic rats induced by monoassociation, we subsequently diassociated two groups of rats in order to investigate the impact of B. adolescentis on the immune reaction against B. thetaiotaomicron. One group was diassociated simultaneously with B. adolescentis and B. thetaiotaomicron, the second group was diassociated with these bacteria in sequence. In contrast to B. thetaiotaomicron, B. adolescentis was not able to induce a systemic immune response in monoassociated animals as evident from serum IgG and IgA. However, both bacterial species challenged the mucosal immune system as indicated by an increase in sIgA in the feces. The specific immune response to B. thetaiotaomicron was significantly lower in diassociated animals than in animals monoassociated with B. thetaiotaomicron. This effect was more pronounced in the rats, that had been associated sequentially. The presence of B. adolescentis down-regulated the humoral immunity to B. thetaiotaomicron.