Low-dose CpG ODN pretreatment is known to induce effective protective immunity against acute infectious diseases. In the present study, using primary murine peritoneal macrophages and the macrophage-like cell line, RAW264.7, we investigated whether low-dose CpG ODN pretreatment would induce hyporesponsiveness in response to a subsequent high-dose CpG ODN challenge and further investigated the molecular mechanisms underlying this event. Our results showed that pretreatment with a low dose of CpG ODN inhibits TNF-alpha production stimulated by later high-dose CpG ODN stimulation in a dose- and time-dependent manner. Interestingly, anti-mouse TLR9 blocking antibody added prior to CpG ODN pretreatment did not affect TNF-alpha release, but antibody added after CpG ODN pretreatment augmented the pretreatment effect of CpG ODN. This difference suggests that cell-surface TLR9 is indeed functional on activated cells. Flow cytometry revealed that low-dose CpG ODN pretreatment decreased cell-surface binding and internalization of a subsequent high-dose stimulation, suggesting that decreased internalization of succeeding CpG ODN is associated with reduced TNF-alpha release. Although both intracellular and cell-surface TLR9 expression are observed, low dose of CpG ODN pretreatment increased only cell-surface TLR9 levels. Importantly, low-dose CpG ODN pretreatment also significantly inhibited the activation of NF-kappaB, an important downstream regulator of various proinflammatory cytokines. In summary, our results demonstrate that suppression of TNF-alpha production by low dose of CpG ODN pretreatment correlates with decreased binding and internalization of subsequent CpG ODN, decreased intracellular content of TLR9, and inhibition of NF-kappaB activation.