Vitamin D3 derivatives are new compounds used topically for the treatment of psoriasis. To get better insights into the mechanisms of action of these compounds, we studied the effect of local treatment with calcipotriol (vitamin D3 synthetic analogue) and compared it to that of betamethasone dipropionate in a murine contact sensitivity (CS) test, the Mouse Ear Swelling Test. Two haptens were used: oxazolone and paraphenylenediamine. Betamethasone and calcipotriol exerted a differential effect on the delayed-type hypersensitivity response. When drugs were applied to the abdomen (sensitization site) before sensitization, no effect was observed. When betamethasone was applied to the abdomen for 4 consecutive days after epicutaneous sensitization, a diminution of the CS response to the relevant hapten was observed, whereas calcipotriol given in the same conditions did not affect the reaction. Ointments were then administered to the ear (elicitation site) either for 4 consecutive days prior to the challenge, or for 4 days before and 2 days after the challenge. In both conditions, calcipotriol and betamethasone exerted a differential effect on elicitation, the latter inhibiting and the former increasing the CS response to oxazolone and paraphenylenediamine. From these results we conclude: (1) that vitamin D3 derivatives are devoided of immunosuppressive effects when applied topically, and (2) that clinical improvement of chronic inflammatory dermatoses observed with topical vitamin D3 derivatives and corticosteroids is due to different mechanisms.