The effect of two biomaterials, polyethylene and alpha-alumina, on interleukin-6 (IL-6) secretion and expression has been studied in human osteoblasts in primary culture. Human osteoblastic cells were derived from fresh trabecular bone explants removed during total knee arthroplasty. On reaching confluence, cells were subcultured in 6 well plates; the resulting subcultures were incubated until confluence and polyethylene or alpha-alumina particles were added to some while the rest were left as controls. The IL-6 mRNA levels were assessed by reverse transcription (RT) followed by polymerase chain reaction (PCR). IL-6 secretion was measured in the conditioned medium. The IL-6 expression was higher in the presence of both biomaterials. Maximum expression occurred in response to a dose of 50 mg particles well with both biomaterials and was greater after polyethylene particle addition than after alpha-alumina particle addition at this dose. The maximum IL-6 secretion elicited by alpha-alumina was produced at 10 mg particles well while maximum response with polyethylene required 50 mg well. At a dose of 10 mg/well, alpha-alumina particles induced more secretion than 10 mg of polyethylene particles. Nevertheless, at a dose of 50 mg/well maximum secretion was produced with polyethylene particles. In conclusion and in our experimental conditions, polyethylene as well as alpha-alumina increased both the expression and the secretion of IL-6 in human osteoblastic cells in primary culture and stimulation from polyethylene appears stronger than that from alpha-alumina at the same dose.