Objective: Recent studies suggest immune dysfunction seen after the onset of polymicrobial sepsis, as produced by cecal ligation and puncture (CLP), is not caused by endotoxin (ETX) alone, but may be caused by the combined effect of the necrotic tissue (cecal ligation, [CL]) and other microbial components. Thus, the objective of this study was to assess the ability of necrotic tissue, in the presence or absence of low-dose endotoxin, to induce changes in the capacity of immune cells to produce proinflammatory or anti-inflammatory cytokines approximating those seen in CLP. Design: Experimental, prospective study. Setting: A hospital laboratory in the Center for Surgical Research. Subjects: Male C3H/HeN mice. Interventions: Mice were subjected to a CL and saline infusion (CL/Sal), CL in combination with low-dose ETX infusion (CL/ETX) (0.025 mg ETX/25 g body weight/24 hrs by a peritoneally implanted osmotic mini-pump), ETX infusion alone, saline infusion alone (Sal), CLP, or sham-CLP (Sham). Splenocytes, splenic macrophage and peritoneal macrophage were harvested from these animals 24 hrs (late) after being subjected to the above protocols. Splenocyte and macrophage inducible cytokine release was assessed by ELISA/bioassay. Survival over a 7-day period was also examined in additional groups. Measurements and Main Results: Our results indicate a marked decrease in splenic interleukin (IL)-2. In addition, peritoneal or splenic macrophage IL-6 productive capacity was depressed in cells from animals subjected to CL/ETX or CLP. Alternatively, CL, in the presence or absence of ETX, induced a marked change in macrophage cytokine release capacity comparable to that seen in CLP, ie, decreased IL-12 release and increased IL-10 secretion. To the extent these cellular alterations contribute to an increase in mortality rate, we observed in subsequent survival studies that neither CL alone nor ETX produced mortality. However, the combination of CL/ETX markedly increased 7-day mortality rate (≃33%), although not to the same extent as CLP (80%). Conclusions: These results collectively suggest that the response to devitalized tissue produced by cecal ligation may predispose the host to the induction of a suppressive macrophage phenotype. The subsequent exposure of these animals to microbial agents induces immune dysfunction, as well as mortality seen after such a polymicrobial septic challenge.