Human recombinant interleukin 1 beta (IL-1) administered intraperitoneally to rats produced the following gastric effects: 1. It was cytoprotective, preventing gastric mucosal necrosis produced by oral administration of one ml of absolute ethanol to fasted animals. The ED50 was 1200 units/kg (110 ng per animal). IL-1 was 125 times more potent than prostaglandin E2 (on a weight basis), and 6,000 times more potent (on a molar basis). 2. The cytoprotective effect of IL-1 was blocked by indomethacin (inhibitor of prostaglandin synthesis) and by IRAP (a specific interleukin-1 receptor antagonist protein). IRAP did not inhibit cytoprotection induced by PGE2. 3. IL-1 prevented the formation of gastric erosions induced by aspirin. 4. IL-1 inhibited gastric secretion (volume, acid concentration and output), in the pylorus-ligated rat, with an ED50 of 300 units/kg (3.2 ng per animal). 5. Indomethacin and IRAP blocked the antisecretory effect of IL-1. 6. IL-1 retarded gastric emptying, an effect blocked by IRAP, but not by indomethacin. 7. IL-1 increased synthesis of prostaglandin E2 by the gastric mucosa by 111%. IL-1 is the most potent of known agents that are gastric cytoprotective, antiulcer, antisecretory, and delay gastric emptying. It appears to act mostly by stimulating the synthesis of prostaglandins by the stomach. These studies suggest that the stomach possesses IL-1 receptors. These are probably located on parietal cells (that produce acid), on prostaglandin-producing cells, on smooth muscle cells (responsible for gastric emptying), and on as yet unidentified cells involved in gastric cytoprotection. Both IL-1 and IRAP, being natural substances, may play a physiological role in the maintenance of gastric mucosal integrity, and in the regulation of acid secretion and gastric motility.