Human interleukin (IL) 6 is a multifunctional cytokine which is synthesized by fibroblasts in response to many stimuli, including bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS). During acute-phase response, liver cells secrete a specific group of proteins among which components of the complement system and IL 6 appear to be an important mediator of this response. Human skin fibroblasts also synthesize at least seven proteins of the complement system. Each of these seems to be characteristically regulated by soluble mediators of the inflammatory process. Here we report that in fibroblasts, IL 6 induces increases in the rate of synthesis of factor B and C3, activator proteins of the alternative pathway of complement activation. The increases in factor B and C3 were concentration dependent reaching about 40- and 15-fold, respectively. The protein increases were observed within 4 h after IL 6 addition to the cells and were accompanied by increase in factor B and C3 mRNA. The data suggest that the induction of factor B and C3 by LPS may be mediated, at least in part, by IL 6 induced by LPS. This new function of IL 6 could provide a local protection against invading agents through activation of the antibody-independent alternative pathway of complement activation.