Whole Nigella sativa (N. sativa) proteins were purified on a DEAE Sephadex A50 ion exchange column. Complete fractionation was achieved in four peaks. Analysis of the purified peaks was carried out by sodium dodecyl sulphate polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis. Whole N. sativa showed a number of protein bands ranging from 94-10 kDa molecular mass. In mixed lymphocyte cultures (MLC), whole N. sativa and its purified proteins were found stimulatory as well as suppressive and this effect varied from one donor to another. Maximum stimulation (mean + S.E. of % relative index was 63.73 + 20.78) was observed with fractionated N. sativa proteins (P1) (10 microg/ml) in MLC. In MLC, also N. sativa peaks (P1 and P2) were stimulatory at all concentrations (10 microg/ml, 1 microg/ml or 0.1 microg/ml) used. However, a uniformly suppressive effect of N. sativa and its all four peaks at a concentration of 10 microg/ml was noticed when lymphocytes were activated with pokeweed mitogen (PWM). The effect of N. sativa proteins was further evaluated on the production of cytokines which were measured by using specific enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Large quantities of IL-1beta were secreted by whole N. sativa in culture medium with non-activated peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) (450 pg/ml) and with allogeneic cells (410 pg/ml). Fractionated N. sativa was less effective when compared with whole N. sativa proteins. No effect on IL-4 secretion was seen either by using non-activated, PWM-activated or allogeneic-cells. Whole N. sativa suppressed as well as stimulated the production of IL-8 in non-activated and PWM-activated PBMC respectively. All N. sativa peaks with protein concentration of 2 microg/ml were stimulatory for the induction of IL-8 by PWM-activated cells. However, no effect on IL-8 was seen either with whole N. sativa or its peaks when allogeneic PBMC were used. Stimulatory effect of whole N. sativa and fractionated proteins was also noticed on the production of TNF-alpha either using non-activated or mitogen activated cells.