Increases in the plasma levels of the inflammatory cytokines can be detected in various infectious and inflammatory diseases, but in healthy individuals these levels are in most cases low or undetectable. There is now increasing evidence that genes of the inflammatory cytokines are polymorphic and the various alleles may differ in their capability to produce the cytokine. We have measured the plasma levels IL-1 beta of 400 healthy blood donors and correlated these to the genotype (biallelelic base exchanges at the position - 889 of the IL-1 alpha gene, and at the position - 511 of the IL-1 beta gene and the pentaallelic VNTR in the second intron of the IL-1Ra gene). The median concentration of IL-1 beta was 5.8 pg/ml (upper and lower quartiles 2.2-13.6). The polymorphisms of the IL-1 beta and IL-1 Ra genes did not have any significant influence on the IL-1 beta levels, but the IL-1 alpha 2.2 homozygotes (32/400 blood donors) had significantly elevated levels (median 7.0 pg/ml, quartiles 2.2-22.4, one-way ANOVA p < 0.008 as compared to the IL-1 alpha 1.1 homozygotes and p < 0.02 as compared to the IL-1 alpha 1.2 heterozygotes). This effect of IL-1 alpha 2.2 homozygosity was more pronounced in donors, who also were carriers of the IL-1 beta allele 2. Thus these data suggest that this allele combination has a regulatory effect on basal IL-1 beta production.