The IL-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1RN) is a protein that binds to IL-1 receptors and inhibits the binding of IL-1 alpha and IL-1 beta. As a consequence, the biological activity of these two cytokines is neutralized in physiological and pathophysiological immune and inflammatory responses. In this study, using a panel of somatic rodent-human cell hybrids, we show that the gene for the human interleukin-1 receptor antagonist (IL1RN) maps to the long arm of chromosome 2. Previously, we described a length variation polymorphism within the second intron of the IL-1RN gene (Steinkasserer et al., 1991, Nucleic Acids Res. 19: 5095). Segregation of this, together with an IL-1 alpha polymorphism, was followed in a panel of five CEPH families. Linkage analysis permitted the mapping of the IL-1RN gene to band q14-q21 in the region for the IL-1 alpha and IL-1 beta loci. This study supports the view that an early gene duplication event resulted in the creation of an interleukin-1 gene family.