Recombinant human IL-6 (rhIL-6) is a potent inducer of the synthesis of acute phase proteins in adult human hepatocytes. A wide spectrum of acute phase proteins is regulated by this mediator. After labeling of rhIL-6 stimulated human hepatocytes with [35S]methionine acute phase protein synthesis was measured by immunoprecipitation. Serum amyloid A, C-reactive protein, haptoglobin, alpha 1-antichymotrypsin and fibrinogen were strongly induced (26-, 23-, 8.6-, 4.6- and 3.8-fold increases, respectively). Moderate increases were found for alpha 1-antitrypsin (2.7-fold) and alpha 1-acid glycoprotein (2.7-fold). RhIL-6 had no effect on alpha 2-macroglobulin, whereas fibronectin, albumin and transferrin decreased to 64, 56 and 55% of controls. In the cases of serum amyloid A, haptoglobin, alpha 1-antichymotrypsin, alpha 1-antitrypsin and alpha 1-acid glycoprotein, dexamethasone enhanced the action of rhIL-6. We conclude that rhIL-6 controls the acute phase response in human liver cells.