Interleukin-16 (IL-16) acts as a chemoattractant for CD4+ cells, as a modulator of T-cell activation, and plays a key role in asthma. This report describes the cytokine-inducing effects of IL-16 on total peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) and PBMC subpopulations. While CD4+ T lymphocytes did not secrete cytokines in response to rhIL-16, CD14+ CD4+ monocytes and maturing macrophages secrete IL-1beta, IL-6, IL-15 and tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) upon rhIL-16 stimulation. The mRNA species for these four cytokines were detected as early as 4 hr post-stimulation, with protein being secreted by 24 hr. Secretion of IL-1beta and IL-6 by total PBMC was dose dependent, with maximal secretion being observed using 50 ng/ml rhIL-16. However, for IL-15 or TNF-alpha maximal secretion by total PBMC occurred with all concentrations between 5 ng/ml to 500 ng/ml rhIL-16. Purified monocytes/macrophages secreted maximal concentrations of all four cytokines in the presence of 500 ng/ml rhIL-16, except for monocytes where maximal secretion of IL-15 was, interestingly, observed with only 50 ng/ml rhIL-16. The use of higher concentrations of rhIL-16 (1000 ng/ml) inhibited secretion of all four cytokines. While these IL-16-induced cytokines are likely to be involved in the immune system's response to antigen, the data suggest that IL-16 may play a key role in initiating and/or sustaining an inflammatory response.