Dendritic cells (DC) classically promote immune responses but can be manipulated to induce antigen-specific hyporesponsiveness in vitro. The expression of costimulatory molecules (CD40, CD86, CD80) at the DC cell surface correlates with their capacity to induce or suppress immune responses. Expression of these molecules is associated with NF-kB-dependent transcription of their genes. DC tolerogenicity has been associated with impaired NF-kB-dependent transcription of costimulatory genes as well as NF-kB translocation to the nucleus. In this report, we demonstrate that double-stranded oligodeoxyribonucleotides containing binding sites for NF-kB (NF-kB ODN) are efficiently incorporated by bone marrow-derived DC and specifically inhibit NF-kB-dependent transcription of a reporter gene. Moreover, exposure of DC to the oligonucleotide decoys inhibited lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced nitric oxide production, a marker of DC maturation. Treatment of bone marrow-derived DC progenitors with NF-kB ODN selectively suppressed the cell-surface expression of costimulatory molecules without interfering with MHC class I or class II expression. Furthermore, NF-kB ODN DC induced allogeneic donor-specific hyporesponsiveness in mixed leukocyte cultures, and this was associated with inhibition of Th1-type cytokine production. Finally, infusion of NF-kB ODN-modified bone marrow-derived DC into allogeneic recipients prior to heart transplantation resulted in significant prolongation of allograft survival in the absence of immunosuppression. Specific interference with NF-kB and other transcriptional pathways involved in immune stimulation in DC using ODN decoy approaches could be one means to promote tolerance induction in organ transplantation.