Human seminal plasma has potent anti-inflammatory properties which are thought to confer a survival advantage to the spermatozoa within the hostile female genital tract. In contrast, a profound pro-inflammatory leukocytosis has been observed post-coitus in animals and humans. Whether components of seminal plasma are involved in initiating this leukocytic reaction is not known. This study investigated the effect of human seminal plasma, a seminal plasma fraction and its principal constituent prostaglandins, prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) and 19-hydroxy PGE, on the release of the pro-inflammatory neutrophil chemotactic factor interleukin-8 (IL-8) and the anti-inflammatory cytokines interleukin-10 (IL-10) and secretory leukocyte protease inhibitor (SLPI). The tissues studied were non-pregnant cervical explants, peripheral blood and the monocyte cell line U937. Seminal plasma fraction (SPF) significantly (P < 0.05) stimulated release of IL-8 and inhibited release of SLPI from non-pregnant cervical explants. SPF, PGE2 and 19-hydroxy PGE significantly (P< 0.005) stimulated IL-8 release from peripheral blood and U937 cells. 19-hydroxy PGE was significantly (P< 0.005) more effective than PGE2 in stimulating IL-8 release. Seminal plasma, SPF and PGE2 significantly (P < 0.05) stimulated IL-10 release from U937 cells. 19-hydroxy PGE stimulated IL-10 release from U937 cells but this failed to reach significance. Release of IL-10 by cervical explants and SLPI by peripheral blood and U937 cells were below the detection limit of the assays employed. We suggest that the anti- and pro-inflammatory immune responses which seminal plasma induces might act in combination initially to promote sperm survival and then to facilitate their removal from the female genital tract.