Different delivery vehicles may target to different antigen presenting cells (APC) because of their composition, size and/or physical properties. In this study, we examined the priming of cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) responses to a soluble exogenous protein in vivo, using various delivery vehicles. In addition, we determined the role of macrophages as APC in vivo for each of these delivery vehicles by comparing the induction of antigen-specific CTL and serum antibodies in normal and macrophage-depleted mice. Influenza A virus-derived virosomes, liposomes and monophosphoryl lipid A/squalene (MPLSQ) efficiently induced antigen-specific CTL as well as antibody responses, of which virosomes proved to be the most efficient inducers. In mice that were immunized with cell-associated antigen, strong CTL responses but no antigen-specific antibodies were detectable, while aluminium hydroxide and aluminium phosphate elicited antigen-specific antibodies but no CTL responses. Elimination of macrophages in vivo before immunization abrogated CTL responses induced with liposomes and MPL/SQ, but did not affect induction of antigen-specific CTL with virosomes or cell-associated antigen. Importantly, serum antibody levels were not altered after macrophage depletion, regardless of the delivery vehicle used, suggesting that in the absence of macrophages, other APC may phagocytose the exogenous antigens for major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II processing and presentation. These results suggest that soluble exogenous antigens delivered in different carrier systems may be processed differently by different APC in vivo for MHC class I- or class II-restricted presentation.