Mice lacking epidermal Langerhans cells (LC) develop exaggerated contact- hypersensitivity (CHS) responses due to the absence of LC during sensitization/initiation. Examination of T cell responses reveals that the absence of LC leads to increased numbers of hapten-specific CD4 and CD8 T cells but does not alter cytokine expression or development of T regulatory cells. CHS responses and Ag-specific T cells are increased in mice in which MHC class II is ablated specifically in LC suggesting that direct cognate interaction between LC and CD4 cells is required for suppression. LC-derived IL-10 is also required for optimal inhibition of CHS. Both LC-derived IL-10-mediated suppression and full LC activation require LC expression of MHC class II. These data support a model in which cognate interaction of LC with CD4 T cells enables LC to inhibit expansion of Ag-specific responses via elaboration of IL-10.