The heat-labile enterotoxins, such as cholera toxin (CT), and the labile toxins types I and II (LT-I and LT-II) of Escherichia coli have been extensively studied for their immunomodulatory properties, which result in the enhancement of immune responses. Despite superficial similarity in structure, in which a toxic A subunit is coupled to a pentameric binding B subunit, different toxins have different immunological properties. Administration of appropriate antigens admixed with or coupled to these toxins by oral, intranasal, or other routes in experimental animals induces mucosal IgA and circulating IgG antibodies that have protective potential against a variety of enteric, respiratory, or genital infections. These include the generation of salivary antibodies that may protect against colonization with mutans streptococci and the development of dental caries. However, exploitation of these adjuvants for human use requires an understanding of their mode of action and the separation of their desirable immunomodulatory properties from their toxicity. Recent findings have revealed that adjuvant action is not critically dependent upon the enzymic activity of the A subunits, and that the isolated B subunits may exert different effects on cells of the immune system than do the intact toxins. Interaction of the toxins with immunocompetent cells is not exclusively dependent upon their conventional ganglioside receptors. Immunomodulatory effects have been observed on dendritic cells, macrophages, CD4(+) and CD8(+) T-cells, and B-cells. Numerous factors-including the precise form of the toxin adjuvant, properties of the antigen, whether and how they are coupled, route of administration, and species of animal model-affect the outcome, whether this is enhanced humoral and cellular immunity, or specific induced tolerance toward the antigen.