Mannan, a polysaccharide isolated from yeast binds to C-type lectins of the mannose receptor family, expressed by antigen-presenting cells (APCs) including dendritic cells (DCs) and macrophages. As these receptors mediate endocytosis, they have been targeted with ligands to deliver antigens into APCs to initiate immune responses. Immunization with tumour antigen MUC1 conjugated to oxidized mannan (OM) or reduced mannan (RM) induced differential immune responses in mice, and only mice immunized with OM-MUC1 elicited strong MUC1-specific cytotoxic T lymphocyte responses and protected mice from a MUC1 tumour challenge. In this study, the adjuvant effect of mannan and its derivatives including OM and RM, in comparison to lipopolysaccharide, on DCs were investigated. Mannan, OM and RM were capable of stimulating mouse bone marrow-derived DC in vitro, eliciting enhanced allogeneic T-cell proliferation and enhancing OTI/OTII peptide-specific T-cell responses. Injection of mice with mannan, OM and RM induced a mature phenotype of lymph node and splenic DCs. Analysis by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction indicated that Manna, OM and RM also stimulated up-regulation of inflammatory cytokines including interleukin-1beta and tumour necrosis factor-alpha, and differential T helper 1 (Th1)/Th2 cytokines. Subsequent experiments demonstrated that activation of DCs was Toll-like receptor-4-dependent. The data presented here, together with evidence reported previously on OM and RM in induction of immune responses in vivo, suggest that OM and RM exert a dual capacity to target antigen to APCs as well as mature DCs.