Supernatants of mitogen-stimulated human leukocytes contain two biologically related cytokines, IL-1 and hybridoma growth factor (HGF). IL-1 beta is a potent inducer of HGF in fibroblasts but has little stimulating effect on monocytes that spontaneously produce HGF. Leukocyte-derived HGF and IL-1 were separated by the use of affinity chromatography on specific antibodies and discriminating assay systems for both cytokines. They had different Mr upon gel filtration and SDS-PAGE. In contrast to IL-1 beta, HGF showed heterogeneity on a cation-exchange column. IL-1 beta and HGF were purified to homogeneity by a sequence of four and five purification steps, respectively. Leukocyte-derived HGF was characterized by analysis of its NH2-terminal amino acid sequence. This revealed complete homology with fibroblast-derived HGF, 26-kDa protein, IFN-beta 2, and B cell stimulatory factor 2, molecules which have collectively been designated as IL-6. IL-1 beta exerted an antiviral and growth-promoting effect of fibroblasts, whereas HGF/IL-6 did not. Both IL-1 and IL-6 possessed lymphocyte-activating factor activity, which could be neutralized only by an anti-serum against the corresponding cytokine.