Upon infection with the protozoan parasite Leishmania major, susceptible BALB/c mice develop unhealing lesions associated with the maturation of CD4(+)Th2 cells secreting IL-4. In contrast, resistant C57BL/6 mice heal their lesions, because of expansion and secretion of IFN-gamma of CD4(+) Th1 cells. The Fas-FasL pathway, although not involved in Th cell differentiation, was reported to be necessary for complete resolution of lesions. We investigate here the role of IFN-gamma and IL-4 on Fas-FasL nonapoptotic signaling events leading to the modulation of macrophage activation. We show that addition of FasL and IFN-gamma to BMMø led to their increased activation, as reflected by enhanced secretion of TNF, IL-6, NO, and the induction of their microbicidal activity, resulting in the killing of intracellular L. major. In contrast, the presence of IL-4 decreased the synergy of IFN-gamma/FasL significantly on macrophage activation and the killing of intracellular L. major. These results show that FasL synergizes with IFN-gamma to activate macrophages and that the tight regulation by IFN-gamma and/or IL-4 of the nonapoptotic signaling events triggered by the Fas-FasL pathway affects significantly the activation of macrophages to a microbicidal state and may thus contribute to the pathogenesis of L. major infection.