We have studied the effects of adjuvant formulations on the activation and antigen-presenting functions of bone marrow-derived dendritic cells (DCs). While LPS could induce high-level expression of MHC Class II and co-stimulator molecules on DCs, it did not enhance antigen presentation to co-stimulation independent DO11.GFP T hybridoma cells. In contrast, alum, NISV and PLGA formulations failed to activate DCs, but NISV and PLGA could enhance antigen-presentation efficiency by 10-100-fold. Irrespective of the previously described antigen release characteristics of each adjuvant, antigen presentation peaked at 6h and waned thereafter for all formulations. Given the importance of DCs in the activation of nai;ve T cell responses, these studies suggest that as yet undefined pathways of DC activation in vivo may underlie the activity of alum, PLGA and NISV adjuvants. Furthermore, as NISV and PLGA do not appear to act as slow-release systems in DCs, the ability of these particulate systems to induce high levels of antigen presentation by DCs probably has a more significant role in their adjuvant activity.