Interaction between different bacterial plaque pathogens and dendritic cells may induce different types of T helper (Th) cell response, which is critical in the pathogenesis of periodontitis. In this study we investigated the effects of lipopolysaccharide (LPS) from Porphyromonas gingivalis and Actinobacillus actinomycetemcomitans on human monocyte-derived dendritic cells (Mo-DCs) with respect to co-stimulatory molecule expression, cytokine production and Th cell differentiation. Unlike Escherichia coli and A. actinomycetemcomitans LPS, P. gingivalis LPS induced only low levels of CD40, CD80, HLA-DR and CD83 expression on Mo-DCs. LPS from both bacteria induced considerably lower TNF-alpha and IL-10 than did E. coli LPS. LPS from all three bacteria induced only negligible IL-12 production. In a human mixed-leukocyte reaction, and in an ovalbumin-specific T cell response assay in mice, both types of LPS suppressed IFN-gamma production. In conclusion, stimulation by P. gingivalis LPS and A. actinomycetemcomitans LPS appears to bias Mo-DCs towards Th2 production.