Recent experimental data have shown that mice could be immunized efficiently, in particular against cancer, by the injection of antigen-loaded dendritic cells (DC) or macrophages (MPH). In the present work, these two antigen-presenting cells (APC) were prepared in humans from circulating mononuclear cells (MNC). MPH were obtained from MNC that were cultured in hydrophobic plastic bags and purified by elutriation. DC were from the culture of adherent elutriation-purified monocytes in the presence of granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) and interleukin-4 (IL-4). The two APC were prepared in parallel from the same donors and their phenotype and antigen-presenting capacity were compared. DC differed from MPH by a higher expression of HLA-DR and CD23 and a lower expression of CD14, CD64 and of adhesion molecules. DC and MPH were comparably effective in (a) enhancing the mitotic response of autologous lymphocytes to immobilized anti-CD3 (accessory function); (b) presenting melanoma peptides to specific cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) clones; and (c) stimulating the generation of CTL directed against a myxovirus influenza peptide. However, DC were more effective than MPH in inducing the mitotic response of allogeneic peripheral blood leucocytes (PBL), possibly because of their higher expression of HLA class II molecules. In conclusion, DC and MPH prepared from blood MNC did not differ substantially in their ability to activate HLA class I-restricted T-cell responses by exogenous peptide presentation.