Norepinephrine, released from sympathetic neurons, and epinephrine, released from the adrenal medulla, participate in a number of physiological processes including those that facilitate adaptation to stressful conditions. The thymus, spleen, and lymph nodes are richly innervated by the sympathetic nervous system, and catecholamines are thought to modulate the immune response. However, the importance of this modulatory role in vivo remains uncertain. We addressed this question genetically by using mice that lack dopamine β-hydroxylase (dbh-/- mice). dbh-/- mice cannot produce norepinephrine or epinephrine, but produce dopamine instead. When housed in specific pathogen-free conditions, dbh-/- mice had normal numbers of blood leukocytes, and normal T and B cell development and in vitro function. However, when challenged in vivo by infection with the intracellular pathogens Listeria monocytogenes or Mycobacterium tuberculosis, dbh-/- mice were more susceptible to infection, exhibited extreme thymic involution, and had impaired T cell function, including Th1 cytokine production. When immunized with trinitrophenyl-keyhole limpet hemocyanin, dbh-/- mice produced less Th1 cytokine-dependent-IgG2a antitrinitrophenyl antibody. These results indicate that physiological catecholamine production is not required for normal development of the immune system, but plays an important role in the modulation of T cell-mediated immunity to infection and immunization.