Peritoneal injury is often associated with alterations of the mesothelium, resulting in peritoneal healing and adhesion formation. We analyzed the effects of pro-inflammatory cytokines on cell morphology and proliferation of human peritoneal mesothelial cells (HPMC). After 48 hours, HPMC formed a confluent layer with cell volumes of 2,662+/-111 fL. Treatment of HPMC with interleukin-1beta and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) induced mesothelial disintegration and alterations in mesothelial cell morphology, which were associated with an interleukin-1beta-triggered increase in cell volume (3,028+/-118 fL; p<0.05) and exfoliation of cells into the supernatants of cell cultures (p<0.05). Whereas TNF-alpha arrested HPMC in the G0/G1 phase (p<0.05), interleukin-1beta caused an increase of cells into the S phase of the cell cycle. In addition, interleukin-1beta and interferon-gamma exerted a proliferative effect on HPMC. These changes were independent from mesothelial Na+/H+ antiporter-1 expression. Our data indicate that the response of HPMC to inflammatory injury is regulated by interleukin-1beta and TNF-alpha reflecting their putative role in peritoneal wound healing and adhesion formation.