As it is not known what changes to leucocyte homeostasis are mandatory for effective adjuvant action, the biological relevance of systemic changes elicited by different vaccine formulations can only be interpreted in the context of the immunological outcomes. We used flow cytometry to quantify the changes in leucocyte subsets induced in mice intradermally immunized with SAMA4 (adjuvant group), outer membrane proteins (OMP) purified fromActinobacillus pleuropneumoniae (OMP antigen group), SAMA4 adjuvanted OMP (OMP vaccine group), or phosphate-buffered saline (PBS: control group). This approach allowed direct comparisons to be made between the effects of antigen, adjuvant or antigen-adjuvant complexes on immune effector cell populations. Antigens complexed with the liposome-iscom hybrid adjuvant, SAMA4, generated strong antibody responses and cytotoxic T-cell activity in animals immunized intradermally, reflecting remobilization and recruitment of specific cell populations. Splenomegaly, due to granulocytosis, monocytosis and megakaryocytosis, was most prominent in the OMP vaccine group. Histological examination of spleen sections confirmed that these changes were due primarily to splenic haematopoiesis. Circulating numbers of granulocytes and monocytes increased significantly (P < 0.05) in the blood of the OMP vaccine group, as did granulocyte numbers in the lungs (P< 0.05). No changes in T- and B-cell numbers were detected by flow cytometry in the spleens, lungs or blood over the 28-day period in any treatment group. Thymocyte numbers (predominantly CD4+CD8+ cells) in the OMP vaccine group fell by 95% within 3 days of immunization. Identical cellular responses were obtained when an innocuous antigen, ovalbumin, was complexed with SAMA4 instead of OMP, thus demonstrating that the adjuvant effects of SAMA4 were due to synergistic interaction between antigen and adjuvant and not due to the presence of toxic components. The association of strong adaptive immune responses with such complex changes in leucocyte homeostasis induced by complexing adjuvant and antigen suggested that the changes were important for effective vaccination and were not purely circumstantial.