The granulomatous immune response in tuberculosis is characterized by delayed hypersensitivity and is mediated by various cytokines released by the stimulated mononuclear phagocytes, including tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF alpha) and IL-1 beta. We have demonstrated that Mycobacterium tuberculosis cell wall component lipoarabinomannan (LAM), mycobacterial heat shock protein-65 kD, and M. tuberculosis culture filtrate, devoid of LPS as assessed by the Amebocyte Lysate assay, stimulate the production of TNF alpha and IL-1 beta proteins and mRNA from mononuclear phagocytes (THP-1 cells). The effect of LAM on the release of these cytokines was specific, as only LAM stimulation was inhibited by anti-LAM monoclonal antibody. Interestingly, we found that LAM and Gram-negative bacterial cell wall-associated endotoxin LPS may share a similar mechanism in their stimulatory action as demonstrated by inhibition of TNF alpha and IL-1 beta release by monoclonal antibodies to CD14. Anti-CD14 monoclonal antibody MY4 inhibited both TNF alpha and IL-1 beta release with LAM and LPS but no effect was observed with other mycobacterial proteins. An isotype antibody control did not inhibit release of cytokines under the same experimental conditions. M. tuberculosis and its components upregulated IL-1 beta and TNF alpha mRNAs in THP-1 cells. Nuclear run-on assay for IL-1 beta demonstrated that LAM increased the transcription rate. The induction of IL-1 beta was regulated at the transcriptional level, in which these stimuli acted through cis-acting element(s) on the 5' flanking region of the IL-1 beta genomic DNA. M. tuberculosis cell wall component LAM acts similarly to LPS in activating mononuclear phagocyte cytokine TNF alpha and IL-1 beta release through CD14 and synthesis at the transcriptional level; both cytokines are key participants in the host immune response to tuberculosis.