Amoeboid microglial cells (brain macrophages) were purified from early post-natal mouse brain cultures. The percentage of cells stained with an anti-Mac-1 antibody was greater than 95%. Stimulation of these brain macrophages by lipopolysaccharides induced the synthesis of interleukin-1 (IL-1), which, in part, remained associated with the cell surface and, in part, was released into the culture medium. In contrast, pure primary astrocyte cultures and cell lines of transformed or immortalised astrocytes did not synthesise significant amounts of IL-1, demonstrating that amoeboid microglia and not astrocytes synthesise IL-1 in vitro. These physiological data were confirmed by RNA hybridisation studies showing that, on LPS treatment, brain macrophages synthesise significant amounts of IL-1 alpha and IL-1 beta mRNAs.