Strenuous resistive breathing induces plasma cytokines that do not originate from circulating monocytes. We hypothesized that cytokine production is induced inside the diaphragm in response to resistive loading. Anesthetized, tracheostomized, spontaneously breathing Sprague-Dawley rats were subjected to 1, 3, or 6 hours of inspiratory resistive loading, corresponding to 45-50% of the maximum inspiratory pressure. Unloaded sham-operated rats breathing spontaneously served as control animals. The diaphragm and the gastrocnemius muscles were excised at the end of the loading period, and messenger ribonucleic acid expression of tumor necrosis factor-alpha, tumor necrosis factor-beta, interleukin (IL)-1alpha, IL-1beta, IL-2, IL-3, IL-4, IL-5, IL-6, IL-10, IFN-gamma, and two housekeeping genes was analyzed using multiprobe RNase protection assay. IL-6, IL-1beta, and, to lesser extents, tumor necrosis factor-alpha, IL-10, IFN-gamma, and IL-4 were significantly increased in a time-dependent fashion in the diaphragms but not the gastrocnemius of loaded animals or in the diaphragm of control animals. Elevation of protein levels of IL-6 and IL-1beta in the diaphragm of loaded animals was confirmed with immunoblotting. Immunostaining revealed IL-6 protein localization inside diaphragmatic muscle fibers. We conclude that increased ventilatory muscle activity during resistive loading induces differential elevation of proinflammatory and antiinflammatory cytokine gene expression in the ventilatory muscles.