Monocytic cells constitute an important defense mechanism against invading pathogens by recognizing conserved pathogens components. The recognition leads to activation of intracellular pathways involving nuclear factor kappa B (NF-kappaB) and mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPK), such as the c-Jun NH2-terminal kinase (JNK), and p38. We show that in vitro infection with Francisella tularensis results in activation of NF-kappaB, phosphorylation of p38 and c-Jun, and secretion of TNF-alpha in adherent mouse peritoneal cells, in the mouse macrophage-like cell line J774A.1, in the human macrophage cell line THP-1, and in human peripheral blood monocytic cells. This occurred after infection with the human live vaccine strain, F. tularensis LVS or a mutant strain denoted deltaiglC, which lacks expression of a 23-kDa protein, or after addition of killed F. tularensis LVS. Addition of purified F. tularensis LPS resulted in no discernible effects on the cells. When the effects were followed up to 5 h, activation persisted in cultures with killed bacteria or infected with the deltaiglC strain. In contrast, the signal transduction activation and secretion of TNF-alpha were down-regulated within the 5h period in mouse peritoneal cells, J774 cells or human peripheral blood mononuclear cells infected with F. tularensis LVS. Together, the results suggest that infection with live F. tularensis LVS bacteria leads to a rapid induction of a proinflammatory response in mouse and human cells but after internalization of bacteria, this response is completely or partly down-regulated in most cell types. This down-regulation does not occur when cells are infected with the mutant deltaiglC.