The aim of this study was to examine the expression of interleukin-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1ra) in human myelomonocytic cells treated with IL-13. IL-13 induced IL-1ra transcripts in human circulating monocytes and polymorphonuclear cells (PMN). Induction by IL-13 was not blocked, but rather superinduced, in the presence of the protein synthesis inhibitor cycloheximide. Actinomycin D blocked induction, suggesting involvement of gene transcription. The half-life of IL-1ra transcripts was prolonged by IL-13 from 1.3 hours to 4.5 hours in monocytes and to 12 hours in PMN. By reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction, IL- 13 was found to augment the transcripts coding for the soluble form of IL-1ra, but also to induce the expression of the intracellular (keratinocyte) form of IL-1ra, the latter being extremely low or undetectable in myelomonocytic cells. IL-13 induced production of IL- 1ra in myelomonocytic cells, augmenting both cell-associated and released protein. Induction of IL-1ra by IL-13 may represent a further mechanism by which this molecule can counteract the potent proinflammatory properties of IL-1.