Macrophage activation--enhanced capacity to kill, in a cell that otherwise mostly scavenges--is essential for host survival from infection and contributes to containment of tumours. Both microbes and tumour cells, therefore, may be under pressure to inhibit or reverse the activation of macrophages. This reasoning led to the demonstration of macrophage deactivating factors from both microbes and tumour cells. In some circumstances the host itself probably requires the ability to deactivate macrophages. Macrophages are essential to the healing of wounds and repair of tissues damaged by inflammation. Yet the cytotoxic products of the activated macrophages can damage endothelium, fibroblasts, smooth muscle and parenchymal cells (reviewed in ref. 6). Thus, after an inflammatory site has been sterilized, the impact of macrophage activation on the host might shift from benefit to detriment. These concepts led us to search for macrophage deactivating effects among polypeptide growth factors that regulate angiogenesis, fibrogenesis and other aspects of tissue repair. Among 11 such factors, two proteins that are 71% similar proved to be potent macrophage deactivators: these are transforming growth factor-beta 1 (TGF-beta 1) and TGF-beta 2.