To determine the role of the airway epithelial cell in mediating virus-induced inflammation, we infected primary cultures of human airway epithelial cells with human influenza type A/Port Chalmers/72 (H3N2). After two days, the medium was collected for measurement of the chemotactic cytokine interleukin-8 by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. The RNA was extracted from the cells for analysis of interleukin-8 mRNA by Northern blot analysis. Interleukin-8 production was more than doubled by viral infection, while interleukin-8 mRNA was increased four-fold. Thus induction of interleukin-8 gene expression in virus-infected airway epithelium may be an important early step leading to virus-induced airway inflammation.