We investigated the effect of interleukin-13 (IL-13) on production of IL-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1ra) and proinflammatory cytokines by human alveolar macrophages (AM). AM were obtained by bronchoalveolar lavage from healthy donors. The production of IL-1ra and proinflammatory cytokines, such as IL-1 beta, IL-6, and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), were quantitated by enzyme immunoassays. AM spontaneously produced IL-1ra, and this production was significantly augmented by IL-13. On the other hand, IL-13 alone did not affect production of proinflammatory cytokines by freshly isolated AM. Upon stimulation with lipopolysaccharide (LPS), AM produced a significantly amount of proinflammatory cytokines as well as IL-1ra, but this production was suppressed by IL-13 in a dose-dependent manner. In contrast, IL-13 caused a small but reproducible increase in LPS-induced IL-1ra production. These regulatory effects of IL-13 were also observed in blood monocytes and macrophages generated in vitro by maturation of blood monocytes with granulocyte/macrophage colony-stimulating factor. These observations suggest that IL-13 may act as an anti-inflammatory cytokine through regulation of cytokine production by AM in the lung.