The destruction and processing of bacteria by activated macrophages facilitates the presentation of antigens to T cells and thereby promotes the induction of specific immunity. The PhoP-PhoQ regulatory system that controls the synthesis of many Salmonella proteins required for virulence and survival within macrophages is one mechanism that this particular intracellular pathogen has evolved to resist destruction. To address whether the phoP locus also influences antigen processing during the interaction of Salmonella typhimurium with macrophages, we tested the effect of phoP mutations on the processing and presentation of model antigens expressed by the bacteria. Activated macrophages processed phoP- bacteria with greater efficiency than wild-type bacteria, as measured by the response of antigen-specific T-hybridoma cells; Salmonella constitutively expressing PhoP were processed even less efficiently than wild-type Salmonella. After heat-inactivation, however, both wild-type and phoP- bacteria were efficiently processed. The altered processing and presentation efficiency was not due to differences in the level of antigen expressed by the bacteria or differences in the level of bacterial uptake by the macrophages. In addition, phoP-regulated gene expression was shown to influence processing of antigen phagocytosed independently of the bacteria. Thus, phoP-regulated gene products decrease the processing and presentation of S. typhimurium antigens, demonstrating a role for this virulence locus in the inhibition of the induction of specific immunity.