Interleukin-1, tumor necrosis factor, and interleukin-6 inhibit insulin release and may be cytotoxic to isolated pancreatic islets. These cytokines have been postulated to play an important role in the beta cell destruction characteristic of type 1 diabetes. The present study was designed to investigate the effect of the above cytokines on insulin, glucagon, somatostatin, and thyrotropin-releasing hormone secretion by isolated human islets. In addition, we have investigated if cytokine-induced modifications in hormone secretion are accompanied by modifications in the ab initio synthesis of any specific lipidic fraction. All three cytokines studied, although not modifying insulin and somatostatin release to glucose 5 mmol/L, inhibited the response of both hormones to glucose 20 mmol/L. On the other hand, the cytokines almost completely blocked islet basal glucagon release, without affecting thyrotropin-releasing hormone secretion. The added cytokines also suppressed 20 mmol/L [U-14C]glucose incorporation into both phospholipids and diacylglycerol. Our results demonstrate a beta-, alpha-, and delta-cell, sensitivity to cytokine action. Additionally, they suggest that ab initio lipid synthesis might be implicated in the mechanism of insulin release in human islets.