While it is well-known that orally fed antigens induce systemic T cell tolerance (oral tolerance), the mechanism by which this occurs, however, remains unclear. In the present study, we examined the role of splenic dendritic cells (DCs) in the process of oral tolerance induction and/or maintenance, by using an adoptive transfer system of antigen (Ag)-specific CD4(+) T cells from ovalbumin (OVA)-specific T cell receptor transgenic mice and DCs from OVA-fed BALB/c mice. Transfer of splenic DCs from OVA-fed mice reduced IL-2 productivity and the proliferative activity of pre-transferred Ag-specific CD4(+) T cells to ex vivo Ag stimulation. There were no changes in expression levels of costimulatory molecules on DCs from OVA-fed mice. Our results show that orally administered Ags induce systemic T cell unresponsiveness through splenic DCs without inducing cell division of T cells, thus providing evidence that splenic DCs are involved in oral tolerance induction.