The recent demonstration of the ability of human polymorphonuclear neutrophils (PMN) to secrete various cytokines in response to the granulocyte activator granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) but not to other cytokines, has led to the identification of PMN as biosynthetically active cells. In this study we have investigated the ability of PMN to secrete interleukin-6 (IL-6), a molecule known to be involved in inflammatory reactions. Using RNA blotting analysis and bioassays, we show that PMN could be induced to synthesize transcripts specific for IL-6, indistinguishable in size from IL-6 mRNA produced by activated human macrophages. Consequently, PMN released IL-6-like activity into their culture supernatants that could be neutralized by monospecific anti-IL-6 antibody. Interleukin-6 secretion by PMN, however, required previous stimulation with GM-CSF or tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), whereas other cytokines, including interleukin-3 (IL-3), granulocyte-CSF (G-CSF), macrophage-CSF (M-CSF), interferon gamma (IFN-gamma), and lymphotoxin (LT), failed to induce IL-6 mRNA accumulation and protein secretion by PMN. Similar to GM-CSF and TNF-alpha, other compounds, including the inhibitor of protein synthesis cyclohexemide (CHX), endotoxin (Escherichia coli- derived lipopolysaccharide), and phorbol myristate acetate (PMA) (but not the chemoattractant N-formyl-methionyl-leucyl-phenylalanine [FMLP]), induced detectable levels of IL-6 transcripts in PMN.