Vascular smooth muscle cells (SMC) are a major cell type comprising the walls of blood vessels. We report the synthesis of granulocyte colony- stimulating factor (G-CSF) by cultured human SMC obtained from the internal mammary artery and thoracic aorta. Interleukin-1 alpha (IL-1 alpha) greatly increased in a dose-dependent manner the amount of this cytokine produced by the SMC, with tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF- alpha) being less effective. Newly formed G-CSF could be detected in culture supernatants within 6 hours after IL-1 alpha or TNF-alpha treatment. Northern blot analysis of SMC stimulated with IL-1 alpha and TNF-alpha showed an increase in the amount of mRNA for G-CSF as compared with control cells. Enhanced G-CSF mRNA levels were observed when SMC were treated with cycloheximide in the absence or presence of added cytokine. In vasculitis, the walls of blood vessels become inflamed as evidenced by a leucocytic infiltrate usually dominated by polymorphonuclear neutrophil leukocytes (PMNs). G-CSF is known to stimulate PMNs, and our findings raise the possibility that G-CSF made by SMC contributes to the development of vasculitis lesions.