Acute inflammatory illnesses, including the sepsis syndrome, often include a component of coagulation. A human whole blood culture system was developed so that the relationship between coagulation activation and cytokine responses in the presence or absence of lipopolysaccharide (LPS) could be evaluated. In the absence of LPS stimulation, coagulation activation resulted in a novel pattern of cytokine production. During a 4-hour culture of coagulating blood, significant production of interleukin-8 (IL-8; >2,000 pg/mL) was observed, whereas other proinflammatory cytokines including IL-1 beta, IL-6, or tumor necrosis factor a were undetectable or less than 35 pg/mL. The cytokine profile was distinct from that of fully anticoagulated, LPS-stimulated blood, which showed levels of all the indicated proinflammatory cytokines > or = 2,000 pg/mL over the same time period. Over 24 to 48 hours, the coagulation-induced cytokine response was characterized by marked and sustained IL-8 production, limited IL-6 generation (with kinetics delayed relative to IL-8), and minimal or undetectable tumor necrosis factor alpha levels. The magnitude of the whole blood IL-8 response correlated with the level of coagulation activation as determined by measurement of thrombin-antithrombin III complex formation. The combined stimuli of coagulation activation and LPS challenge induced a synergistic enhancement of IL-8 production but not of IL-6. Coagulation-induced cytokine production and the synergistic production of IL-8 by coagulation and LPS could be attenuated by hirudin or tissue factor pathway inhibitor (TFPI). Studies to elucidate mechanisms implicated (1) the TFPI third Kunitz and carboxy-terminus as important structural components for TFPI regulation of coagulation activation and (2) thrombin as a candidate mediator of the mononuclear cell cytokine response to coagulation activation. In summary, a unique aspect of the crosstalk between the coagulation and cytokine cascades in whole blood is shown with the identification of IL-8 as a key proinflammatory participant.