The dynamic aspects of circulating cytokines and cytokine modulators and their relationship with development of multiple organ failure (MOF) in patients with acute pancreatitis were analyzed. All cytokine and C-reactive protein levels in the circulation were higher than those in the MOF group. In particular, plasma concentrations of soluble tumor necrosis factor receptors (sTNF-RI and sTNF-RII) were significantly higher in patients with MOF than in those without even at admission. Furthermore, plasma concentrations of sTNF-Rs and interleukin-1 (IL-1) receptor antagonist (IL-1ra) were much higher than those of their counterparts, TNFalpha and IL-beta, respectively. These results suggest that the plasma concentrations of sTNF-Rs are useful predictors for the development of MOF, and actions of TNF-alpha and IL-1beta could be regulated by their modulators (soluble receptor and receptor antagonist, respectively) in the pathologic condition of severe acute pancreatitis.