Various pathogens have been shown to infect antigen-presenting cells and affect their capacity to interact with and stimulate T-cell responses. We have used an antigenically identical pair of non-cytopathic (ncp) and cytopathic (cp) bovine viral diarrhoea virus (BVDV) isolates to determine how the two biotypes affect monocyte and dendritic cell (DC) function. We have shown that monocytes and DCs are both susceptible to infection with ncp BVDV and cp BVDV in vitro. In addition, monocytes infected with ncp BVDV were compromised in their ability to stimulate allogeneic and memory CD4(+) T cell responses, but DCs were not affected. This was not due to down-regulation of a number of recognized co-stimulatory molecules including CD80, CD86 and CD40. Striking differences in the response of the two cell types to infection with cytopathic virus were seen. Dendritic cells were not susceptible to the cytopathic effect caused by cp BVDV, whereas monocytes were killed. Analysis of interferon (IFN)-alpha/beta production showed similar levels in monocytes and DCs exposed to cp BVDV, but none was detected in cells exposed to ncp BVDV. We conclude that the prevention of cell death in DCs is not associated with enhanced production of IFN-alpha/beta, as proposed for influenza virus, but is by a distinct mechanism.