The fact that fluorine-18 fluorodeoxyglucose ([(18)F]FDG) accumulates in inflammatory lesions as well as in tumours reduces the diagnostic specificity of positron emission tomography (PET) in oncology. The aim of this study was to characterise the uptake of [(18)F]FDG in isolated human monocyte-macrophages (HMMs) in vitro in comparison with that in human glioblastoma (GLI) and pancreatic carcinoma cells (PAN). The purity of HMM preparations was determined by immunohistochemical staining and their functional integrity was assessed by long-term incubation with iodine-131 acetylated bovine serum albumin. [(18)F]FDG uptake in HMMs was quantified as percent of whole [(18)F]FDG activity per well (% ID) or as % ID in relation to total protein mass. [(18)F]FDG uptake in HMMs significantly increased with culture duration, yielding 7.5%+/-0.9% (% ID/100 micro g) at day 14. Stimulation by lipopolysaccharide further enhanced [(18)F]FDG uptake in HMMs by a factor of 2. [(18)F]FDG uptake significantly decreased with increasing glucose concentration in the medium. Radio-thin layer chromatography of intracellular metabolites revealed that [(18)F]FDG was trapped by HMMs mainly as [(18)F]FDG-6-phosphate and [(18)F]FDG-1,6-diphosphate. [(18)F]FDG uptake was in the range of uptake values measured in GLI and PAN. By accumulating [(18)F]FDG in a manner analogous to uptake by tumour cells, activated HMMs may contribute to the [(18)F]FDG uptake values measured by PET in neoplasms.