The immunomodulatory effects of probiotics were assessed following exposure of normal peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC), cord blood cells and the spleen-derived monocyte/macrophage cell line CRL-9850 to Lactobacillus acidophilus LAVRI-A1, Lb. rhamnosus GG, exopolysaccharides (EPS)-producing Streptococcus thermophilus St1275, Bifidobacteriun longum BL536, B. lactis B94 and Escherichia coli TG1 strains. The production of a panel of pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines by PBMC following bacterial stimulation was measured, using live, heat-killed or mock gastrointestinal tract (GIT)-exposed bacteria, and results show that (i) all bacterial strains investigated induced significant secretion of pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines from PBMC-derived monocytes/macrophages; and (ii) cytokine levels increased relative to the expansion of bacterial cell numbers over time for cells exposed to live cultures. Bifidobacteria and S. thermophilus stimulated significant concentrations of transforming growth factor (TGF)-beta, an interleukin necessary for the differentiation of regulatory T cells (T(reg) )/T helper type 17 (Th17) cells and, as such, the study further examined the induction of Th17 and T(reg) cells after PBMC exposure to selected bacteria for 96 h. Data show a significant increase in the numbers of both cell types in the exposed populations, measured by cell surface marker expression and by cytokine production. Probiotics have been shown to induce cytokines from a range of immune cells following ingestion of these organisms. These studies suggest that probiotics' interaction with immune-competent cells produces a cytokine milieu, exerting immunomodulatory effects on local effector cells, as well as potently inducing differentiation of Th17 and T(reg) cells.