The host response to Salmonella plays a major role in the outcome of infection. The present study was undertaken to further characterize Salmonella typhimurium infection in neonatal calves at both the morphologic and the molecular level using the ligated ileal loop model. Eight 4-5-week-old male Holstein calves underwent laparotomy, and loops were prepared in the ileum. The loops were either inoculated with an S. typhimurium strain pathogenic for cattle or injected with sterile LB broth as control. Samples for histology, transmission and scanning electron microscopy, and RNA extraction were collected at various time points between 5 minutes and 12 hours postinfection. Invasion of both M cells and enterocytes began at 15 minutes postinfection. No specific cell type was the main target for invasion. Intracellular bacteria were observed in the lamina propria after 1 hour postinfection. A severe acute neutrophilic response was associated with invasion of the Peyer's patches. Upregulated expression of CXC chemokines (interleukin [IL]-8, growth-related oncogenes, [GRO] alpha and gamma, and granulocyte chemotactic protein [GCP]2) was detected by reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction beginning at 1 hour postinfection. Expression of proinflammatory (IL-1beta, IL-18, and tumor necrosis factor [TNF]alpha) and anti-inflammatory (IL-10, IL-IRa, and IL-4) cytokines was also assessed. A marked increase in expression of IL-1beta was observed, whereas the profile of expression of IL-18 and TNFalpha did not change after infection. Upregulation of IL-1Ra and IL-4 but not of IL-10 was observed. These findings indicate that infection of bovine ligated ileal loops with S. typhimurium results in an acute neutrophilic inflammatory response that is associated with the upregulation of CXC chemokines (IL-8, GROalpha and gamma, and GCP2), IL-1beta, IL-IRa, and IL-4.