Infection of humans with Helicobacter pylori results in the development of chronic gastritis and plays an important role in gastric ulcer pathogenesis. Despite the infiltration of the mucosa with specific immunocompetent cells and production of specific antibodies, the infection usually persists for life. This study was performed to investigate if immunologic mechanisms exist which could contribute to the inability of the host to terminate the infection. Therefore, we compared the in vitro immunoreactivity of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) from H. pylori-infected patients after stimulation with sonicated H. pylori bacteria from the stomach of the patient (autologous bacterial strain) with stimulation by bacteria from other patients (heterologous bacteria). We measured cell proliferation, expression of T cell activation markers CD25, HLA-DR, and CD71, as well as production ofinterleukin-10 (IL-10), an inhibitory cytokine. We found that the proliferative response of PBMC was significantly lower after autologous than after heterologous stimulation. Furthermore, secretion of IL-10 in the culture supernatants was significantly higher when PBMC were incubated with autologous than with heterologous H. pylori antigens. No significant differences between autologous or heterologous stimulation were observed in the increased expression of T cell activation markers. These data indicate that systemic immunologic response to H. pylori are strain-dependent. For further studies of the immune responses towards H. pylori, the use of an autologous stimulatory system seems necessary.