C57BL/6 and BALB/c mice are prototypical Th1- and Th2-type mouse strains, respectively. In the present study, we attempted to characterize the innate immune response of macrophages from these mouse strains. Macrophages from C57BL/6 mice produced higher levels of tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) and interleukin (IL)-12 than those from BALB/c mice after stimulation with macrophage-activating lipopeptide-2 (MALP-2, a synthetic TLR-2 ligand) or lipopolysaccharide (LPS, a TLR-4 ligand). The augmented IL-12 production by C57BL/6 macrophages increased interferon-gamma and, in contrast, decreased IL-13 production by CD4+ T cells. On stimulation with MALP-2 or LPS, C57BL/6 macrophages produced lysosomal enzyme and nitric oxide, effector molecules for bacterial killing, whereas BALB/c macrophages did not. Bactericidal activity of BALB/c macrophages was impaired relative to C57BL/6 macrophages when cells were infected with live bacteria in vitro. In a murine model of septic peritonitis induced by cecal ligation and puncture (CLP), BALB/c mice failed to facilitate bacterial clearance relative to C57BL/6 mice despite an augmented peritoneal leukocyte infiltration that was associated with increased peritoneal levels of cytokines/chemokines. BALB/c mice exhibited increased plasma and hepatic levels of cytokines/chemokines, resulting in an exaggerated systemic inflammation as determined by acute-phase proteins. Finally, BALB/c mice were vulnerable to CLP-induced lethality relative to C57BL/6 mice. Altogether, innate immune response of macrophages is different between these mouse strains, which may affect the development of Th1 and Th2 adaptive immunity in these strains. Reduced systemic inflammatory response in C57BL/6 mice that may result from an eminent local response appears to be beneficial during sepsis.