A prerequisite for systemic hyporesponsiveness to dietary antigens is their processing in the gut. This study investigated whether bovine caseins degraded by enzymes of an intestinal bacterial strain, Lactobacillus GG (ATCC 53103), could regulate the cytokine production by anti-CD3 antibody-induced peripheral blood mononuclear cells of 14 atopic patients, aged 5-29 (mean, 16) months. Purified casein up-regulated the interleukin-4 and interferon-gamma production, P = 0.008 and P = 0.008, respectively. Conversely, Lactobacillus GG-degraded casein down-regulated the interleukin-4 production, P = 0.003, with no effect on interferon-gamma. These results indicate that intestinal bacteria may modify immunomodulatory properties of native food proteins and introduce a promising tool to provide protection from potentially harmful dietary antigens at a young age.