By means of direct cell-cell contact, fixed, stimulated T lymphocytes trigger the production of interleukin-1 beta (IL-1 beta) and tumour necrosis factor by monocytes and prime polymorphonuclear leucocytes (PMN) for the respiratory burst induced by N-formyl-methionyl-leucyl-phenylalanine (FMLP). In order to assess whether this activity is displayed by a particular subpopulation of T lymphocytes, 88 T-cell clones (TCC) were generated from healthy human peripheral blood. The clones were stimulated by Phaseolus vulgaris agglutinin (PHA) and phorbol 12-myristate acetate monocytic cell line THP-1. All fixed, stimulated TCC induced IL-1 beta production by THP-1 cells, although to varied degrees. The activity of TCC on THP-1 cells correlated with their activity on PMN (r2 = 0.84, P < 0.001), suggesting that this pro-inflammatory activity of TCC may similarly affect both types of infiltrating cells. The ability of TCC to modulate target cells did not correlate with either their phenotype (CD4 or CD8) or their cytokine production profile (interferon-gamma, IL-4 and IL-6), although it tended to correlate inversely with their capacity to produce IL-6 (P < 0.02). These observations suggest that a large proportion, if not all, of human peripheral blood T lymphocytes may potentially affect monocytes and PMN by direct cell-cell contact. This activity may be relevant to the maintenance of chronic inflammation.