The immunotoxicity of cis- and trans-nonachlor and chlordane were investigated in adult male and female Sprague-Dawley rats following a 28-day oral (gavage) treatment. Rats were randomly assigned to six experimental groups: cis-nonachlor, females; trans-nonachlor, females; technical chlordane females; cis-nonachlor, males; trans-nonachlor, males; technical chlordane, males. The immunologic endpoints included: quantification of the total serum immunoglobulin (Ig) levels and subclasses and flow cytometric analysis of peripheral blood leukocytes and T-lymphocyte subsets, evaluation of the lymphoproliferative activity of splenocytes in response to concanavalin A (Con A) and Salmonella typhimurium (STM) mitogens, and natural killer (NK) cell activity of splenocytes. Satellite experiments to examine the delayed-type hypersensitivity (DTH) response to oxazolone, and resistance to Listeria monocytogenes were set up for female rats treated with cis- or trans-nonachlor. Statistically significant (P<0.05) effects included: increased serum immunoglobulin M (IgM) levels in the chlordane-treated females at the 25 mg/kg dose (pairwise comparison); increased serum IgG(1) and IgG(2c) in the cis-nonachlor-treated males at the 2.5 and 25 mg/kg doses and increased serum IgG(2a) levels at all doses; increased serum IgG(2b) at the 25 mg/kg dose and decreased (dose-related) serum IgM levels in the cis-nonachlor-treated male rats; increased (linear trend) IgG(1) and IgG(2a) in the cis-nonachlor-treated females with effects on IgG(2a) significant at the 25 mg/kg dose compared with control; increased serum IgG(2a) in the trans-nonachlor-treated male and female rats at the 2.5 mg/kg dose; increased absolute numbers (linear trend) of peripheral white blood cells, B lymphocytes, natural killer (NK) cells, T-suppressor/cytotoxic lymphocytes, and the double positive (T-helper/inducer, T-suppressor/cytotoxic) cells in the trans-nonachlor-treated females; increased (non-linear trend) lymphoproliferative activity in the Con A-stimulated splenocytes and decreased (linear trend) activity in the S. typhimurium mitogen-stimulated splenocytes of the cis-nonachlor-treated females; reduced resistance to L. monocytogenes in the cis-nonachlor (day 3, P=0.034)- and trans-nonachlor (day 2, P=0.0001)-treated females, and reduced (linear trend) NK cell activity in the cis-nonachlor-treated males. The present data indicated that the chlordane compounds tested in this study had significant effects on a number of immunologic endpoints. In comparison to technical chlordane, cis- and trans-nonachlors were more immunotoxic. Therefore, an evaluation of the risk these chlorinated compounds may pose to human health should consider the potential effects different chlordane compounds may have on the immune system.