Lipopolysaccharide (LPS) is a potent inducer of interleukin 1 (IL 1) synthesis and release, and of tumor necrosis factor (TNF) secretion. Many signals can enhance the LPS-induced production of these cytokines. We have previously observed that addition of low amounts of normal human serum to the culture medium enhances IL 1 production. Among serum factors, anaphylatoxins C3a and C5a and/or their desArg derivatives have been shown to enhance LPS-induced IL 1 and TNF production. However, the capacity of natural anaphylatoxins to induce by themselves the production of cytokines remains a controversial issue. We have investigated the capacity of human recombinant C5a (hrC5a) to induce IL 1 and TNF production. Despite its lack of direct triggering, hrC5a was able to act synergistically with LPS, leading to higher IL 1 and TNF release by human monocytes and mouse peritoneal macrophages. As assessed by the comitogenic assay, hrC5a increased IL 1 release, whereas cell-associated IL 1 activity was not significantly modified. Measurement by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay of human IL 1 beta led to similar conclusions, whereas measurement of IL 1 alpha by radioimmunoassay indicated, in addition, an increase in intracellular IL 1 alpha.