Although recently polymorphonuclear leukocytes (PMN) have been identified as producers of IL-1 beta in response to LPS and granulocyte/monocyte colony stimulating factor, little is known regarding the ability of other cytokines to induce the production of IL-1 beta in the PMN. Inasmuch as IL-1 and TNF have been shown to be important priming agents, as well as agents that induce migration of PMN, we investigated their effect on IL-1 beta gene expression in human peripheral blood PMN. In the present study, we demonstrate that human peripheral blood PMN produce IL-1 beta in response to IL-1 alpha, IL-1 beta, and TNF-alpha. Control (unstimulated) human PMN had virtually undetectable levels of IL-1 beta mRNA. Either IL-1 beta or TNF, induced PMN to transiently express IL-1 beta mRNA with peak expression at 1 h, returning to untreated levels by 2 h. A dose response indicated that as little as 0.05 ng/ml of IL-1 beta or TNF resulted in IL-1 beta induction, with maximal effects at 1 ng/ml of IL-1 beta and 5 ng/ml of TNF. IL-1 alpha or IL-1 beta exhibited similar dose responses in IL-1 beta mRNA induction. Inasmuch as cytokines have been shown to have synergistic effects in cell function studies, we induced PMN with a combination of maximally effective doses of TNF plus IL-1 beta. They demonstrated a cooperative effect on IL-1 beta gene expression, in that mRNA levels were sustained for three hours. IL-1 beta Ag expression, as measured by ELISA, paralleled IL-1 beta mRNA expression with cell associated peak levels at 2 to 4 h. IL-1 beta Ag levels in PMN lysates and supernatants correlated with IL-1 beta mRNA levels, i.e., TNF + IL-1 greater than TNF greater than IL-1. Thus, these studies represent the first demonstration of IL-1 and TNF induction of IL-1 beta gene expression in the PMN. Furthermore, the time course of induction is unique to the PMN, with peak induction of mRNA at 1 h, which is consistent with the short lived nature of these cells in inflammatory lesions.