We studied the ability of resident peritoneal M phi, parasitized in vitro with Leishmania major, to present Ag to three Th2-type T cell clones that are specific for non-leishmanial Ags. Results indicated that L. major-infected M phi enhanced the proliferation and IL-4 secretion of Th2 T cells in response to stimulation with their cognate Ag. Augmentation of Th2 T cell proliferation was seen in Ag-driven responses but not in mitogenic Con A stimulation. Furthermore, live L. major promastigotes and amastigotes, but not killed parasites, augmented the Th2 T cell response. To delineate the augmentative effect of L. major-infected M phi for Th2 T cell activation, we analyzed the cytokines produced by infected M phi in the presence or absence of Th2 T cell clones. The supernatants contained IL-1 but not IL-6 or IL-10. Interestingly, addition of a neutralizing anti-IL-1 alpha mAb to the cultures reduced the augmentative effect for Th2 proliferation. Moreover, additional experiments showed that IL-1 alpha could substitute for L. major and enhance T cell activation in cultures consisting of Th2 cells, normal M phi, and Ag. Thus, our study shows that L. major-infected M phi present Ags in a manner that augments Th2 T cell proliferation and IL-4 synthesis, and that the phenomenon is at least in part mediated by IL-1 secreted by the infected M phi. For purposes of comparison, two non-leishmanial Ag specific Th1-type T cell clones were stimulated with L. major-infected M phi. Our data, as already reported by others, showed that infected M phi inhibited the response of Th1 T cells to their cognate Ag. Taken together, this report shows that leishmanial-infected M phi favor the activation of Th2 T cells over Th1 cells and that Th1 and Th2 cells require distinct activation signals from M phi.