Neutrophils and monocytes play a central role in host defence. The invading leucocytes are capable of synthesizing and releasing a variety of proinflammatory mediators including cytokines. Given the importance of cytokines in the progression of chronic and acute inflammatory processes, we aimed to ascertain whether the release of interleukin (IL)-8, IL-1beta, tumour necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha and IL-1ra of neutrophils and monocytes was modified in diabetes. To this end, we measured the release of cytokines in suspensions of cell culture in basal and lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-stimulated conditions. In basal conditions, neutrophils of diabetics release 1.6, 3.2, 1.9 and 1.9-fold higher amounts of IL-8, IL-1beta, TNF-alpha and IL-1ra, respectively, than do healthy controls. Under our experimental conditions, this effect was more evident for neutrophils than for monocytes. Incremental cytokine production was also found to occur when neutrophils were stimulated with LPS. IL-8, IL-1beta and TNF-alpha increased, respectively, by 4.0, 1.7 and 2.8-fold. Although the effect was more marked for neutrophils, monocytes showed a tendency for increased cytokine production. The discovery of this increase in cytokines released by the neutrophils of diabetics contributes towards a clearer understanding of other deficiencies described for neutrophils in diabetes, such as the migration of neutrophils to inflammatory sites, phagocytes, release of lytic proteases, production of reactive oxygen species and apoptosis. The excessive production of cytokines may lead to inappropriate activation and tissue injury and even to increased susceptibility to invasive microorganisms. Thus, the increased responsiveness of neutrophils of diabetics demonstrated in this study may be considered part of the scenario of diabetes physiopathology.