In order to investigate the impact of an inflammatory mediator PGE2 on the functions of maturing DC we used an in vitro model of DC generation from peripheral blood monocytes. Addition of PGE2 (10(-9) M-10(-6) M) to the cultures performed in the presence of GM-CSF and IL-4 did not alter the morphology nor high levels of expression of class II MHC and co-stimulatory molecules on arising DC, although at concentrations above 10(-8) M, the acquisition of CD1a was selectively prevented. Control DC and the DC maturing in the presence of PGE2 (PGE2-DC) induced a similar proliferation of naive Th cells. Control DC produced high amounts of IL-12, and only trace amounts of IL-10, whereas PGE2-DC produced no IL-12 and high levels of IL-10, when stimulated after the removal of PGE2. The deficient IL-12 production by PGE2-DC was observed after stimulation both in the absence and in the presence of IFN gamma, and was not compensated during further 48 h culture in the absence of PGE2. Compared to control DC, PGE2-DC induced development of Th cells secreting elevated amounts of IL-4 and IL-5, from naive precursors. These data indicate that elevated tissue levels of PGE2 may promote type 2 Th responses by impairing the ability of locally maturing DC to produce IL-12. Since Th2 responses mediate protection in Th1-related autoimmune disorders, the use of PGE2-DC in immunotherapy of such disorders may be considered.