Macrophage inflammatory proteins 1 alpha and beta (MIP-1 alpha and beta) and macrophage inflammatory protein 2 (MIP-2) are approximately 6-8 kd, heparin binding proteins that exhibit a number of inflammatory and immunoregulatory activities. The MIP proteins are members of a superfamily of cytokines called chemokines, many of which have been shown to possess chemotactic activity for inflammatory and immune effector cells. While MIPs were originally identified as secretory products of endotoxin-stimulated mouse macrophages, these chemokines are produced by a variety of cell types including neutrophils, fibroblasts, and epithelial cells. In addition, proteins with a high degree of structural and functional homology to murine MIP-1 alpha and beta and MIP-2 have been identified in other species including humans. MIP-1 alpha and beta are chemotactic for monocytes and lymphocytes and MIP-2 is a potent chemotactic factor for neutrophils. MIPs likely also play a role in regulating hematopoiesis and stimulating production of other inflammatory mediators such as IL-1, TNF alpha, and histamine. Studies using animal models of lung injury and inflammation have implicated MIPs as important mediators of lung defense. Increased MIP expression has been observed in models of bacterial sepsis, silicosis, and oxidant-induced lung injury. Studies in humans indicate MIP-1 alpha contributes to the inflammatory cell response associated with sarcoidosis and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Given the bioactivities of MIP-1 alpha and beta and MIP-2 and the recent studies demonstrating their association with lung inflammation, it is likely these chemokines play a significant role in respiratory tract defenses and may contribute to the pathogenesis of inflammatory lung disease.