We have established dendritic cell (DC) cultures from chimpanzee peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) by using recombinant human (rh) granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) and rh interleukin-4 (IL-4) and demonstrate that these cells have all the characteristics of DC as described for other species. We consistently can obtain 1 x 10(7) DC per 100 ml of blood, a yield of 5% DC as compared to 0.1 to 0.5% DC reported in fresh human PBMC. The cultured DC have a varied morphology with typical cytoplasmic extensions. Phenotypically, the blood-derived DC lack expression of most lineage antigens, but express CD83, an antigen specifically expressed on human blood DC. Chimpanzee DC express very high levels of major histocompatability complex class II antigens, adhesion and costimulatory molecules. Consistent with this phenotype of a powerful antigen-presenting cell, chimpanzee DC generate allogeneic mixed leukocyte responses 15 to 20 times more potent than that elicited by macrophages, Epstein-Barr virus-transformed lymphoblasts and fresh PBMC. In addition, chimpanzee DC very efficiently present tetanus toxoid to PBMC-derived CD4+ T cells as compared to macrophages and PBMC. The DC generated by culturing chimpanzee PBMC with rhGM-CSF and rhIL-4 thus closely resemble human blood-derived DC propagated in the same manner. This technology provides a powerful animal model with which to apply DC to clinical studies with relevance to human disease. In particular, chimpanzee DC can be tested as immunotherapeutic agents for cancer, and be studied in relation to the pathogenesis of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection.