R-848 and imiquimod belong to a class of immune response modifiers that are potent inducers of cytokines, including IFN-alpha, TNF-alpha, IL-12, and IFN-gamma. Many of these cytokines can affect the acquired immune response. This study examines the effects of R-848 on aspects of acquired immunity, including immunoglobulin secretion, in vivo cytokine production, and Ag-specific T cell cytokine production. Results are compared with those of Th1 CpG ODN. R-848 and CpG ODN are effective at skewing immunity in the presence of Alum toward a Th1 Ab response (IgG2a) and away from a Th2 Ab response (IgE). R-848 and CpG ODN are also capable of initiating an immune response in the absence of additional adjuvant by specifically enhancing IgG2a levels. Both R-848 and imiquimod showed activity when given subcutaneously or orally, indicating that the compound mechanism was not through generation of a depot effect. Although CpG ODN behaves similarly to R-848, CpG ODN has a distinct cytokine profile, is more effective than R-848 when given with Alum in the priming dose, and is active only when given by the same route as the Ag. The mechanism of R-848's adjuvant activity is linked to cytokine production, where increases in IgG2a levels are associated with IFN-alpha, TNF-alpha, IL-12, and IFN-gamma induction, and decreases in IgE levels are associated with IFN-alpha and TNF-alpha. Imiquimod also enhances IgG2a production when given with Ag. The above results suggest that the imidazoquinolines R-848 and imiquimod may be attractive compounds for use as vaccine adjuvants and in inhibiting pathological responses mediated by Th2 cytokines.