In order to define mechanisms regulating the synthesis of procollagenase in human rheumatoid synovial fibroblasts, the proteins synthesized by cultured cells were labeled with [35S]methionine. Labeled medium proteins were analyzed by SDS-PAGE directly and after immunocomplexing with a specific antibody to human fibroblast collagenase. Labeling of both the predominant form of the enzyme (Mr approximately 55 000) as well as a minor species (Mr approximately 61 000) was increased following incubation with the monokine, mononuclear cell factor/interleukin 1. The approximately 61 kDa form of the procollagenase appears to be a glycosylated form of the approximately 55 kDa precursor based on binding to Con A-Sepharose and decrease in the approximately 61 kDa form after culture in the presence of tunicamycin. Thus, mononuclear cell factor, homologous with interleukin 1, partially purified from monocyte conditioned medium increased incorporation of [35S]methionine into several medium proteins, including those complexed by the anticollagenase antibody. In the presence of mononuclear cell factor/interleukin 1, labeling of the procollagenase was increased 12-14-fold over control cultures incubated with medium alone. Therefore, one of the mechanisms involved in increase of collagenase activity in the medium of cultured synovial fibroblasts in the presence of mononuclear cell factor/interleukin 1 is a stimulation of enzyme protein synthesis.