We have studied serum cytokine profiles in BALB/c mice after immunization with influenza vaccine alone or combined with the following adjuvants: alum; MF59 emulsion; MF59 containing the muramyl peptide N-acetyl-muramyl-L-alanyl-D-isoglutaminyl-L-alanine-2-(1,2- dipalmitoyl-sn-glycero-3-(hydroxyphosphoryloxy)) ethylamide (MTP-PE); MF59 plus the lipid A analogue monophosphoryl lipid A; MF59 plus the Quil A saponin fraction LTC; or LTC alone. Pooled mouse sera were analyzed by ELISA at various times after immunization for IL-1 alpha, IL-2, IL-3, IL-4, IL-5, IL-6, IL-10, IFN-gamma, and TNF-alpha. In naive mice, vaccine alone induced low levels of IL-3 and IL-5 only; vaccine plus alum induced a low IL-6 response as well. The MF59-based adjuvants significantly increased the IL-5 and IL-6 levels, whereas Quil A LTC induced strong IFN-gamma and measurable IL-2 responses, in addition to moderate IL-5 and IL-6. In previously infected mice, MF59 and MF59/MTP-PE were capable of generating IFN-gamma responses, as well as IL-5 and IL-6. All of the cytokine responses were rapid (peaking 3 to 12 h postimmunization) and short lived. In naive mice, the MF59 adjuvants induced serum cytokine profiles that are consistent with a primarily Th2-type response, whereas the Quil A LTC induced cytokines associated with both Th1 and Th2 responses. Ab analyses indicated that, although the adjuvants strongly affected the magnitude of the humoral response, there was no obvious correlation between the cytokine profile observed and the subclasses of Ab induced.