mAb have been raised that recognize human IL-1 beta. Using overlapping peptide fragments expressed in yeast and bacteria, we have mapped the regions of the protein to which these antibodies bind. To assess the relevance of the different regions of IL-1 beta for the expression of its biologic activity, the ability of the antibodies to block IL-1 activity was assayed. Antibodies recognizing the regions 133-148 and 251-269 of human IL-1 beta could inhibit the activity of IL-1 beta, but not of IL-1 alpha, in two different biologic assays, the murine thymocyte proliferation and PGE2 release from human fibroblasts. Conversely, antibodies that recognize the region 218-243 have only a moderate inhibitory effect on the IL-1 beta biologic activity in both assays. Finally, an antibody mapping to the region 148-192 did not inhibit IL-1 beta activity either on thymocytes or on fibroblasts. It is suggested that IL-1 beta-induced cell activation involves different regions of the protein and that both N-terminal and C-terminal fragments are involved in the correct functioning of the IL-1 beta molecule.