Lipopolysaccharide (LPS) was extracted from Porphyromonas gingivalis (W83) by the Westphal procedure, nuclease-digested and ultracentrifuged. Fibroblasts were obtained from human gingival tissue and rat periosteum, grown to confluence then stimulated in serum-free medium with 0.1, 1.0 and 10.0 micrograms/ml LPS. The levels of prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) and interleukin-1 beta (IL-1 beta) released were measured after 2, 4 and 6 d by specific radioimmunoassays. Unstimulated gingival fibroblasts produced low levels of PGE2 (24.5 +/- 1.5 (SD) ng/ml) and IL-1 beta (0.34 +/- 0.29 ng/ml). LPS stimulated statistically significant dose-related increases in PGE2 and IL-1 beta at the concentrations of LPS tested. At 10.0 micrograms/ml, LPS-stimulated fibroblasts produced 363.5 +/- 40.3 ng/ml PGE2 and 1.81 +/- 0.1 ng/ml IL-1 beta in 6 d. These results demonstrate that LPS from P. gingivalis is capable of stimulating PGE2 and IL-1 beta release from fibroblasts. This would appear to be an additional mechanism by which LPS can induce tissue breakdown in periodontal disease.