Experiments were undertaken to localize in the lipopolysaccharide (LPS) the minimal structural determinants sufficient to initiate the signal leading to interleukin 1 (IL 1) secretion by human monocytes. Our results clearly demonstrated that this signal is triggered by structures present in the so-called inner-core region which chemically consists of 2-keto-3-deoxy-D-manno-octulosonic acid (KDO) and heptose in many LPS of gram-negative bacteria. Thus, the isolated polysaccharide region of Bordetella pertussis endotoxin as well as fragments derived therefrom containing the reducing KDO unit were able to induce similar levels of IL1 induction as the native LPS. Similarly, the trisaccharide alpha-D-manno-heptopyranosyl-(1-3)-alpha-D-manno-heptopyranosyl -(1-5)-3 -deoxy-D-manno-octulosonic acid (hep-hep-KDO), representative for the inner-core region of a large number of enterobacterial LPS, was a very potent IL 1 inducer. Neither KDO monosaccharide, nor the alpha-(2-4)-linked 3-deoxy-D-manno-octulosonic acid disaccharide isolated from Salmonella rough-form LPS promoted the signal indicating that the minimal structure of endotoxin able to induce IL 1 secretion resides in the hep (1-5)-KDO disaccharide.