Candida albicans mannoprotein (MAN) administered intravenously to mice stimulates the production of splenic CD8+ effector cells which downregulate delayed hypersensitivity (DH) in immunized mice. Cytokine involvement in the induction and/or elicitation of downregulation was studied by (i) examining murine splenocytes qualitatively for mRNA for interleukin-2 (IL-2), IL-4, IL-10, IL-12p40, and gamma interferon (IFN-γ), (ii) quantitating splenocyte mRNA for IL-12p40 by quantitative-competitive reverse transcriptase-mediated PCR, and (iii) measuring serum levels of IL-12p40 and IL-12p70 by capture enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, each performed at selected intervals over 96 h after giving MAN. Further, the effect of in vivo administration of anti-IL-4 on the induction and elicitation of MAN-specific DH in MAN-treated mice was measured. Expression of IL-12p40 mRNA in the spleen was reduced to near 0 during the first 24 h but rebounded thereafter. Transcripts for IL-10 were present throughout the 96-h period, whereas those for IL-4 and IFN-γ were either weak or undetectable prior to 24 to 48 h. In vivo administration of anti-IL-4 partially abrogated the downregulatory effect of MAN only when given at the time of MAN administration. Serum levels of IL-12p40, but not IL-12p70, were increased by 24 h and maximal at 48 h. The antagonistic effect of IL-12p40 could contribute to the mechanism(s) for downregulation of DH. Moreover, IL-10, IL-4, and/or IFN-γ, interacting with MAN-activated cells in the absence of biologically active IL-12, may induce the production of CD8+ downregulatory effector cells. Partial abrogation of downregulatory activity in animals treated with anti-IL-4 at the time of induction of such activity lends support to this hypothesis.