We investigated the effects of granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G- CSF) on cytokine and cytokine receptor plasma levels and on the in vivo host response to Salmonella abortus equi endotoxin in healthy males. Twenty volunteers received 0.8 ng/kg endotoxin and saline intravenously 1 week apart in randomized order. Twelve hours before both experiments, 10 of these subjects were pretreated with 300 micrograms G-CSF subcutaneously. G-CSF itself increased granulocyte and monocyte counts and the plasma levels of tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), soluble TNF receptors (sTNF-R) p55, and p75 and interleukin-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1ra). G-CSF did not influence plasma IL-1 beta and IL-6 levels. In the G-CSF-pretreated subjects endotoxin-induced surges in rectal temperature and in the plasma levels of TNF-alpha plasma levels were about 50% increased, and surges in the plasma levels of both sTNF- Rs and IL-1ra were about twice as high as in the control group. Endotoxin-induced increases in IL-6, cortisol, and heart rate were not modified by G-CSF pretreatment. Endotoxin administration induced a transient 50% reduction in leukocyte counts in the G-CSF-pretreated subjects that was not seen in the control group. We conclude that a single stand dose of G-CSF increases the plasma levels of cytokines and cytokine receptors and considerably modifies the host response of healthy humans to a low dose of endotoxin.