Oxidized low-density lipoprotein (oxLDL) consists of both lipid components and apoprotein B100. OxLDL has both proinflammatory and cytotoxic properties. The present study was undertaken to investigate the effects of components in the lipid moiety of oxLDL on immune activation as determined by cytokine and immunoglobulin secretion. LPC induced interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) secretion in peripheral blood mononuclear leucocytes from healthy blood donors. The effect varied between individuals, and there were both responders and non-responders. Furthermore, LPC induced enhanced antibody production, indicating B cell activation. None of eight oxysterols, arachidonic acid (AA), or 15-lipoxygenase products of AA tested had immune stimulatory properties. We recently demonstrated that PAF and oxLDL induce IFN-gamma secretion by a common mechanism. LPC-induced IFN-gamma secretion was inhibited by a specific PAF receptor antagonist, WEB 2170, indicating that the PAF receptor is involved in LPC-induced immune activation. Both oxLDL- and LPC-induced antibody formation was inhibited by WEB 2170. Furthermore LPC also induced tumour necrosis factor-alpha secretion, and this effect was inhibited by WEB 2170. LPC is produced during lipid oxidation (as in oxLDL), but also by enzymes such as phospholipase A2. The findings indicate that LPC may play an important role in inflammatory reactions, including atherosclerosis.