Since platelet-activating factor (PAF) exerts neurotoxic effects on brain cells, we explored the possibility of PAF production by human fetal microglial cells in vitro. PAF content in pure cultures was assayed and characterized in basic conditions, and after stimulation with growth factors and cytokines. Results showed that microglia cells synthesized PAF when challenged with tumor necrosis factor-alpha and lipopolysaccharides, whereas other molecules, such as gamma-interferon or basic fibroblast growth factor, were ineffective. The induced PAF production was concentration- and time-dependent. These results are in line with the hypothesis that microglia can start a cascade of events leading to tissue damage, thus playing a central role in the pathogenesis of several central nervous system diseases.