Toll-like receptor 9 (TLR9) expression is increased in periodontally diseased tissues compared with healthy sites indicating a possible role of TLR9 and its ligand, bacterial DNA (bDNA), in periodontal disease pathology. Here, we determine the immunostimulatory effects of periodontal bDNA in human monocytic cells (THP-1). THP-1 cells were stimulated with DNA of two putative periodontal pathogens: Porphyromonas gingivalis and Tannerella forsythia. The role of TLR9 in periodontal bDNA-initiated cytokine production was determined either by blocking TLR9 signaling in THP-1 cells with chloroquine or by measuring IL-8 production and nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-kappaB) activation in HEK293 cells stably transfected with human TLR9. Cytokine production (IL-1beta, IL-6, and TNF-alpha) was increased significantly in bDNA-stimulated cells compared with controls. Chloroquine treatment of THP-1 cells decreased cytokine production, suggesting that TLR9-mediated signaling pathways are operant in the recognition of DNA from periodontal pathogens. Compared with native HEK293 cells, TLR9-transfected cells demonstrated significantly increased IL-8 production (P < 0.001) and NF-kappaB activation in response to bDNA, further confirming the role of TLR9 in periodontal bDNA recognition. The results of PCR arrays demonstrated upregulation of proinflammatory cytokine and NF-kappaB genes in response to periodontal bDNA in THP-1 cells, suggesting that cytokine induction is through NF-kappaB activation. Hence, immune responses triggered by periodontal bacterial nucleic acids may contribute to periodontal disease pathology by inducing proinflammatory cytokine production through the TLR9 signaling pathway.