Isoflavones are ubiquitous compounds in foods and in the environment in general. Daidzein and genistein, the best known of isoflavones, are structurally similar to 17 beta-estradiol and known to exert estrogenic effects. They also evidence a broad variety of biological properties, including antioxidant, anti-carcinogenic anti-atherogenic and anti-osteoporotic activities. Previously, daidzein was reported to increase the phagocytic activity of peritoneal macrophages and splenocyte proliferation, and to inhibit nitric oxide (NO) production in macrophages. However, its potential impacts on immune response in dendritic cells (DCs), antigen-presenting cells that link innate and adaptive immunity, have yet to be clearly elucidated. In this study, we evaluated the effects of isoflavones on the maturation and activation of DCs. Isoflavones (formononetin, daidzein, equol, biochanin A, genistein) were found to differentially affect the expression of CD86, a costimulatory molecule, on lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-stimulated DCs. In particular, daidzein significantly and dose-dependently inhibited the expression levels of maturation-associated cell surface markers including CD40, costimulatory molecules (CD80, CD86), and major histocompatibility complex class II (I-A(b)) molecule on LPS-stimulated DCs. Daidzein also suppressed pro-inflammatory cytokine production such as IL-12p40, IL-6 and TNF-alpha, whereas it didn't affect IL-10 and IL-1 beta expression. Furthermore, daidzein enhanced endocytosis and inhibited the allo-stimulatory ability of LPS-stimulated DCs on T cells, indicating that daidzein treatment can inhibit the functional maturation of DCs. These results demonstrate that daidzein may exhibit immunosuppressive activity by inhibiting the maturation and activation of DCs. (C) 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.