Monocytes activated by lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and interferon gamma (IFN gamma) rapidly secrete a number of monokines with different functional properties. Interleukin–4 (IL–4), a T-cell derived cytokine, has been shown to reduce the production of monokines with cytostatic activity for tumor cells, chemotactic activity for monocytes, and factors that stimulate thymocyte proliferation. This latter activity is mediated by a number of monokines like IL–1, tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF alpha), and IL–6. To elucidate which cytokines produced by monocytes are controlled by IL–4, we tested the effect of IL–4 on the secretion of IL–1 alpha, IL–1 beta, TNF alpha, and IL–6 induced by LPS or IFN gamma. IL–4 was found to inhibit the secretion of IL–1 beta and TNF alpha by activated monocytes almost 100%. The secretion of IL–6 was found to be reduced 70% to 85% in the presence of IL–4, whereas there was no effect on the secretion of IL–1 alpha (IL–1 alpha is mainly cell- associated). Time-course experiments demonstrate that IL–4 reduces the secretion of monokines for a prolonged period of time (greater than 40 hours). The reduced secretion of IL–1 beta and TNF alpha was specifically induced by IL–4 because anti-IL–4 antiserum completely restored normal monokine production. These data suggest that IL–4 plays a role in the regulation of immune responses by reducing the production of functionally important monokines.