Primary mouse hepatocytes exposed to the inflammatory cytokines IL-1 and IL-6 in vitro displayed an increase in the production of the major acute-phase reactant, serum amyloid P-component (SAP). Antiserum to recombinant human IL-6 selectively neutralized the SAP-inducing activity secreted by human diploid fibroblasts. Purified mouse interferon-beta (IFN-beta), but not IFN-alpha, also induced SAP production. Addition of 0.05 ng/ml of recombinant mouse IL-1 alpha induced a 10-fold increase in SAP production, whereas recombinant human and recombinant mouse IL-6 displayed optimal SAP-inducing activity of four-fold and seven-fold at 10 ng/ml and 1 unit/ml/2 x 10(5) mouse hepatocytes, respectively. The SAP-inducing activity was neutralized by antibodies to each of the recombinant cytokines. The kinetics of the SAP response in vitro was similar for all of the cytokines. Addition of a mixture of IL-1 and IL-6 to the hepatocytes resulted in SAP production that was not synergistic, but additive, over a range of concentrations for each cytokine. The increase in SAP production mediated by the cytokines was in part the result of an increase in the level of SAP mRNA. Metabolic incorporation of [35S]methionine into mouse SAP occurred in response to both IL-1 and IL-6. Therefore, mouse SAP should be classified among the subset of acute-phase proteins that can be induced by the direct action of either IL-1 or IL-6 on hepatocytes.