The cytokines, interleukin-1 (IL-1) and tumor necrosis factor (TNF), induce a dose-dependent production of both granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) and granulocyte CSF (G-CSF) in cultured human synovial cells, as measured by immunoassay. With IL-1, significant levels of both CSFs were first detected within 6 to 12 hours, with a maximum reached 24 to 48 hours after commencement of stimulation. A synergistic effect was detected between IL-1 and TNF in production of both CSFs in these cells. No evidence was obtained for the IL-1-induced effect to be mediated by induction of endogenous TNF nor for the TNF-induced stimulation to involve IL-1. IL-1-stimulated synovial cells were shown to secrete biologically active GM-CSF and G- CSF, which were specifically inhibited by their respective monoclonal antibodies. The transcription inhibitor, actinomycin D, and protein synthesis inhibitor, cycloheximide, inhibited the increase in GM-CSF and G-CSF production induced by IL-1 and TNF. Finally, other cytokines, IL-3, interferon gamma (IFN gamma), IL-2, platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF), epidermal growth factor (EGF) and transforming growth factor alpha (TGF alpha), failed to stimulate either GM-CSF or G-CSF production, whether alone or in the presence of IL-1. These results suggest that cytokine-stimulated synovial fibroblasts may be a major source of intraarticular CSF production in the joints of patients with inflammatory arthritis; as a result, monocyte/macrophages and granulocytes may be activated, leading to perpetuation of the inflammation and destructive events occurring in these lesions.