The major form of IL-1 beta-converting enzyme (ICE) identified in THP.1 monocytic cells and human monocytes is the 45-kDa precursor protein (p45), which is found in the cytoplasm. Cytoplasmic extracts of these cells show no pIL-1 beta cleavage activity, indicating that the p45 has no detectable catalytic activity. pIL-1 beta cleavage activity can only be observed after incubation in vitro when p45 breaks down to the active p20 form of the enzyme. LPS stimulation of human monocytes or THP.1 monocytic cells results in no change in the amount of p45 or its activity and no detectable appearance of p20 ICE. Immunoprecipitation of [35S]Met-labeled LPS-stimulated monocyte extracts revealed only p45 with no other co-precipitating protein. The inability to identify active ICE in stimulated monocytic cells was probably a reflection of the very low levels of active ICE present.