We investigated the effects of interferon-alpha (IFN-alpha) on the expression of cytokines by human bone marrow stromal cells. Production of granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF), granulocyte-CSF (G-CSF), and interleukin-1 beta (IL-1 beta) in stromal cell layers was induced by incubation with IL-1 alpha, tumor necrosis factor (TNF), or lipopolysaccharide (LPS). Addition of IFN-alpha to such stimulated cultures resulted in a strong downregulation of mRNA expression of GM-CSF and IL-1 beta. Similarly, the protein levels of GM- CSF and IL-1 beta were significantly reduced by IFN-alpha, whereas G- CSF production was only moderately inhibited. In contrast, IFN-alpha markedly stimulated the production of IL-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1RA) by stromal cells. The inhibition of cytokine expression resulted in a reduced hematopoietic activity of stromal cells, indicated by a reduced proliferation of the factor dependent cell line MO7e on IFN-alpha- treated stromal cells. In the presence of cycloheximide (CHX), IFN- alpha failed to inhibit IL-1 mRNA expression, whereas the regulation of GM-CSF and IL-1RA by IFN-alpha was not affected. Our results indicate that the myelosuppressive effects of IFN-alpha, as observed in therapeutic applications or associated with viral infections, are, in part, indirectly mediated by inhibition of the paracrine production of hematopoietic growth factors.