CD14 has been implicated as a receptor of lipoteichoic acid (LTA) and other bacterial components as well as lipopolysaccharide (LPS). Since the structures of LTAs from various gram-positive bacteria are heterogeneous, we analyzed the effects of LTAs on the secretion of interleukin-8 (IL-8) by high- and low-CD14-expressing (CD14(high) and CD14(low)) human gingival fibroblasts (HGF). While Bacillus subtilis LTA had an IL-8-inducing effect on CD14(high) HGF which was considerably weaker than that of LPS, Streptococcus sanguis and Streptococcus mutans LTAs had practically no effect on the cells. B. subtilis LTA had only a weak effect on CD14(low) HGF, as did LPS. S. sanguis and S. mutans LTAs at a 1,000-fold excess each completely inhibited the IL-8-inducing activities of both LPS and a synthetic lipid A on CD14(high) HGF. The effect of LPS was also inhibited by the presence of an LPS antagonist, synthetic lipid A precursor IV(A) (LA-14-PP), with a 100- fold higher potency than S. sanguis and S. mutans LTAs and by anti-CD14 monoclonal antibody (MAb). S. sanguis and S. mutans LTAs, LA-14-PP, and anti- CD14 MAb had no significant effect on phorbol myristate acetate-stimulated IL-8 secretion by HGF. These LTAs also inhibited the IL-8-inducing activity of B. subtilis LTA on CD14(high) HGF, as did LA-14-PP and anti-CD14 MAb. The antagonistic and agonistic functions of LTAs were also observed with human monocytes. Binding of fluorolabeled LPS to human monocytes was inhibited by S. sanguis LTA, although the inhibition was 100 times weaker than that of LPS itself, and anti-CD14 MAb inhibited fluorolabeled LPS and S. sanguis LTA binding. Binding of LTAs to CD14 was also observed with nondenaturing polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis. These results indicate that LTAs act as antagonists or agonists via a CD14-dependent mechanism, probably due to the heterogeneous structure of LTAs, and that an antagonistic LTA might be a useful agent for suppressing the periodontal disease caused by gram-negative bacteria.