Endotoxin (LPS) tolerance is induced by exposure to sublethal doses of LPS, resulting in a suppressed proinflammatory response and an improved survival rate after challenge with a normally lethal dose of LPS. We studied the effects of tolerance induced by either Escherichia coli-derived LPS or Pseudomonas aeruginosa-derived LPS on the innate immune response to a subsequent P. aeruginosa bacterial challenge and determined if the induction of tolerance was dependent on interferon gamma (IFN-gamma) activity. LPS tolerance was induced in wild-type (WT) and IFN-gamma knockout mice by i.p. injection of 1 microg of LPS on 2 consecutive days. Mice were challenged with an i.p. injection of live P. aeruginosa (1 x 10(8) colony-forming units) 2 days after the second LPS dose. LPS tolerance in WT mice was associated with diminished serum IFN-gamma and IL-12 and increased serum IL-10 responses to the Pseudomonas challenge. Both clearance of the bacterial challenge and survival were improved in WT animals pretreated with either E. coli LPS or P. aeruginosa LPS compared with saline-pretreated control mice. Similarly, IFN-gamma knockout mice exposed to LPS before the Pseudomonas challenge also had improved bacterial clearance of the challenge and an improved survival rate. In separate experiments, priming with IFN-gamma at a dose that approximated the serum concentration induced by LPS priming did not alter cytokine production or bacterial clearance after a Pseudomonas challenge. Finally, administration of IFN-gamma at the time of Pseudomonas challenge amplified cytokine production in LPS-tolerant animals but did not affect bacterial clearance. These results suggest that IFN-gamma is not necessary for the induction of LPS tolerance. Furthermore, IFN-gamma seems to play a role in propagating the inflammatory cytokine response to Pseudomonas challenge, but it did not seem to have any role in bacterial clearance.