Roxithromycin (RXM), a new macrolide antibiotic, has a 14-member macrocycline ring structure which is similar to that of erythromycin. We investigated the effects of RXM on the proliferation of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and the production of interleukin 1 beta (IL-1 beta) and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) by PBMCs stimulated with lipopolysaccharide (LPS). At concentrations greater than 25.0 micrograms/ml, RXM suppressed the proliferation of PBMCs stimulated with phytohemagglutinin, probably due to cytotoxicity. When the PBMCs were incubated with RXM for 7 d, the number of adherent cells (monocyte/macrophages) increased. Incubation with RXM at a concentration of 25.0 micrograms/ml induced the greatest increase (p < 0.05). IL-1 beta and TNF-alpha were present 3 h after LPS-stimulation, and IL-1 beta production reached a peak at 12 h and TNF-alpha production at between 6 and 12 h, and then their production declined. RXM (25 micrograms/ml) suppressed the production of IL-1 beta and TNF-alpha slightly during the entire course of the incubation. This suppression was dose-dependent. Anti-human granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor and anti-human macrophage colony stimulating factor antibodies had no effect on the RXM-induced proliferation of adherent cells. Suppression of the production of IL-1 beta and TNF-alpha by RXM suggested that this drug might have anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive effects.