Deoxyspergualin (DSG) is a novel immunosuppressive agent recently shown to bind to the constitutive heat shock protein 70, which is involved in binding and intracellular transport of antigenic peptides. In this study, we show that DSG inhibits the proliferation of PBMCs to the Ags tetanus toxoid and diphtheria toxoid, but not to the mitogens PHA and PMA/ionomycin, nor to the superantigens toxic shock syndrome toxin-1 and staphylococcal enterotoxin A. DSG's effect was specific for monocytes as preincubation of T cells with DSG did not inhibit their proliferation to monocytes pulsed with tetanus toxoid Ag for 16 h, whereas the presence of DSG during Ag pulsing of the monocytes inhibited their ability to stimulate T cell proliferation. DSG did not down-regulate the expression of MHC class II molecules by monocytes, and the inhibitory effect of DSG on T cell proliferation was not reversed by the addition of IL-2, nor by the addition of the costimulatory signals IL-1, IL-6, and anti-CD28. Studies with two human T cell clones, HA1.7 and PF5, specific, respectively, to peptides spanning amino acids 307-319 and 256-270 of influenza hemagglutinin, showed that DSG inhibited the proliferation of the clones to the native hemagglutinin molecule but minimally affected their proliferation to the peptides. These data suggest that DSG interferes with Ag processing and/or presentation.