Epidermal Langerhans cells (LC) are Ia-bearing potent antigen-presenting cells (APC) of dendritic cell lineage that play a crucial role in primary and secondary T cell-dependent immune responses. LC express several costimulatory molecules such as B7, which has been implicated as one of the important determinants of professional APC. Recently, B7 antigens have been shown to include three distinct molecules termed B7-1, B7-2, and B7-3, and the expression of B7-1 and B7-2 in LC has been already confirmed. However, little is known of the regulation of B7-1 and B7-2 expression in LC. We demonstrated that LC do not express B7-1 and B7-2 in situ; however, the expression of both molecules is rapidly induced during the first 3 days of culture, and high levels of expression are maintained at least until day 6. We show that the expression of B7-2 in LC is much higher than that of B7-1 in each experiment, and that B7-1 and B7-2 expression is reproducibly augmented by interleukin (IL)-4 in a dose-dependent manner; however, IL-2 affected expression very little. Finally, B7-1 expression is significantly and dose-dependently down-regulated by interferon (IFN)-γ or IL-10, and B7-2 expression is consistently inhibited by IL-10, but not by IFN-γ. The effects of these cytokines are active only in the induction phase (during first 3 days of culture) of B7 expression: the modulatory effects of cytokines are hardly detected in the plateau phase (days 4 to 6 of culture) of B7 expression in LC. These findings suggest that B7-1 and B7-2 expression are indeed selectively and differentially regulated by these T cell-derived cytokines, and that the cytokines may modulate the synthesis of B7 molecules rather than the degradation of already-expressed B7 molecules.