In this study, a cell-free extract of Salmonella inhibited T cell mitogen-induced proliferation of spleen cells from non-immunized mice. The proliferation of murine spleen cells stimulated with a T cell mitogen, such as phytohaemagglutinin (PHA) or concanavalin A (ConA) was suppressed significantly when the cells were treated with a sonicate of S. typhimurium, but not of E. coli. The agent(s) responsible for the suppressive effect existed mainly in the soluble fraction of S. typhimurium, whereas the membrane fraction possessed minimal activity. The T cell proliferation suppression paralleled the level of interleukin-2 (IL-2) secretion. Addition of phorbol 12-myristate-13 acetate (PMA) to the cultures restored IL-2 secretion to normal levels, although proliferation remained suppressed and was not reversed by treatment with recombinant IL-2. These results suggest that the suppression of T cell proliferation induced by a soluble Salmonella fraction is associated with inhibition of IL-2 secretion and the response of T cells to IL-2 and the former effect is dependent upon the inhibition of the stimulatory activity of protein kinase C on IL-2 secretion. This type of suppression may explain a mechanism of immunosuppression induced by murine typhoid fever.