We investigated dietary antigen-specific T-cell responses in mesenteric lymph nodes (MLN) and Peyer's patches (PP) in noncolitic control mice as well as in colitis-prone mice prior to onset of histological active colitis. T cells were restimulated in vitro with constituents isolated from the mouse diet. Interestingly, MLN T cells of littermate G(alpha)i2+/- control mice responded to soya with high production of interleukin (IL)-10, but did not produce proinflammatory T-helper 1 (Th1) cytokines. Recall dietary antigen stimulation of G(alpha)i2+/- PP T cells did not result in increased IL-10 production above the spontaneous production in the absence of antigenic stimulation. In strong contrast, MLN T cells from precolitic G(alpha)i2-/- mice produced high levels of interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) upon restimulation with soya, which could be abolished using a major histocompatibility complex class II-blocking antibody. In conclusion, the present study demonstrates that MLN T lymphocytes in normal healthy mice respond with a significantly increased production of the regulatory cytokine IL-10 on re-encounter with dietary proteins in vitro. In marked contrast precolitic G(alpha)i2-/- mice respond to dietary antigens with a Th1-dominated cytokine response in the mucosa, prior to onset of colitis, with excessive IFN-gamma production. These results suggest that aberrant immune responses to dietary antigens could contribute as a potential pathogenic mechanism in the onset of colitis in G(alpha)i2-deficient mice.