BACKGROUND: Bisphenol A (BPA) is a widespread endocrine-disrupting chemical that can affect humans and animals. OBJECTIVES: We investigated the effects of adult or prenatal exposure to BPA on T-helper (T(H))1/T(H)2 immune responses and the mechanisms underlying these effects. METHODS: To evaluate the effects of exposure to BPA in adulthood, male Leishmania major-susceptible BALB/c and -resistant C57BL/6 mice were subcutaneously injected with 0.625, 1.25, 2.5, and 5 micromol BPA 1 week before being infected with L. major. To evaluate prenatal exposure, female mice were given BPA-containing drinking water at concentrations of 1, 10, and 100 nM for 2 weeks, then mated, and given BPA for another week. Male 10-week-old offspring were infected with L. major. Footpad swelling was assessed as a measure of the course of infection. RESULTS: Mice exposed to BPA prenatally or in adulthood showed a dose-dependent increase in footpad swelling after being infected with L. major. Exposure to BPA in adulthood significantly promoted antigen-stimulated production of interleukin (IL)-4, IL-10, and IL-13 but not interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma). However, mice prenatally exposed to BPA showed increased production of not only IL-4 but also IFN-gamma. The percentages of CD4(+)CD25(+) cells were decreased in mice exposed to BPA either prenatally or in adulthood. Effects of prenatal BPA exposure were far more pronounced than effects of exposure in adulthood. CONCLUSION: BPA promotes the development of T(H)2 cells in adulthood and both T(H)1 and T(H)2 cells in prenatal stages by reducing the number of regulatory T cells.