A comparison between 17 strains of lactic acid bacteria and 15 strains of bifidobacteria indicated that bifidobacteria induced significantly lower levels of interleukin-12 (IL-12) in murine splenic cells. The present study aims to evaluate the effect and mechanism of Bifidobacterium longum BB536, a probiotic strain, in suppressing antigen-induced Th2 immune response in vitro. BB536 suppressed immunoglobulin (Ig) E and IL-4 production by ovalbumin-sensitized splenic cells, but induction of Th1-inducing cytokine production, such as IL-12 and gamma interferon (IFN-gamma) tended to be lower compared with lactic acid bacteria. Neutralization with antibodies to IL-12, IFN-gamma, IL-10 and transforming growth factor beta indicated negative involvement of Th1-inducing cytokines and regulatory cytokines in the suppression of Th2 immune response by BB536, especially when treated at higher doses of BB536 (>10 microg cells/ml). Furthermore, BB536 induced the maturation of immature bone marrow-derived dendritic cells (BM-DCs), and suppressed antigen-induced IL-4 production mediated by BM-DCs. These results suggested that BB536 suppressed Th2 immune responses, partially independent of Th1-inducing cytokines and independent of regulatory cytokines, mediated by antigen-presenting cells such as dendritic cells.