The effects of glutamine concentration on the phagocytosis of an opsonized antigen, the synthesis of RNA, and the production of interleukin-1 (IL-1) by macrophages were investigated in vitro. A minimum A minimum of 0.125 mmol/L glutamine was required for a significant increase in phagocytosis of opsonized sheep erythrocytes, compared with that recorded for macrophages cultured in the absence of glutamine. The synthesis of 3H-RNA by macrophages also required 0.125 mmol/L glutamine in the culture medium before it was significantly increased above the levels of control cultures. A minimum of 0.03 mmol/L glutamine was required for the induction of significant levels of IL-1 by lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-stimulated macrophages. Therefore, recent findings suggesting that decreases in plasma glutamine resulting from major burn injury, sepsis, trauma, and surgery may be partly responsible for the associated impairment of immune function now have a basis in both phagocytosis and in modulation of the synthesis of IL-1 (the first cytokine of the interleukin cascade that leads to specific immunity) by macrophages, in addition to the previously established dependency of lymphocytes on external sources of glutamine for their replication.