It has been postulated that Kupffer cells provide signals that regulate hepatocyte responses in sepsis and inflammation. Although in vitro data support such a hypothesis, to our knowledge, no in vivo evidence has been reported. We injected rats with lipopolysaccharide intraperitoneally to simulate sepsis or turpentine intramuscularly to mimic localized inflammation. Both treatments are known to induce the hepatic acute-phase response. Liver nonparenchymal cells and hepatocytes were isolated and placed in culture. Hepatocyte fibrinogen synthesis was measured as an indication of interleukin 6 exposure, while nonparenchymal interleukin 6 production was measured directly. Both lipopolysaccharide and turpentine stimulated a sharp increase in hepatocyte fibrinogen synthesis (turpentine greater than lipopolysaccharide). However, only lipopolysaccharide injection was associated with increased nonparenchymal cell interleukin 6 synthesis. Increased circulating levels of interleukin 6 could be found only after lipopolysaccharide injection. In addition, tumor necrosis factor synthesis was enhanced by lipopolysaccharide but not turpentine. Our data show that nonparenchymal cells are stimulated to provide the interleukin 6 signal to hepatocytes in endotoxemia but not in remote localized inflammation, even though both treatments stimulate the hepatic acute-phase response. Our findings support paracrine functions for liver sinusoidal cells in certain septic states.