To understand the role of the proinflammatory cytokine interleukin-1 (IL-1) in disease, investigators have studied how production of the different members of the IL-1 family is controlled, the various biologic activities of IL-1, the distinct and various functions of the IL-1 receptor (IL-1R) family, and the complexity of intracellular signaling. Mice deficient in IL-1Beta, IL-1Beta converting enzyme, and IL-1R type I have also been studied. Humans have been injected with IL-1 (either IL-1alpha or IL-1beta) for enhancing bone marrow recovery and for cancer treatment. The IL-1-specific receptor antagonist (IL-1Ra) has also been tested in clinical trials. The topics discussed in this review include production and activities of IL-1 and IL-1Ra molecules, the effects of IL-1 on gene expression, functions of cell-bound and soluble IL-1 receptors, the importance of the IL-1R accessory protein, newly discovered signal transduction pathways, naturally occurring cytokines limiting IL-1 production or activity, the effects of blocking cyclooxygenase and nitric oxide, and the outcomes of IL-1 and IL-1 Ra in human trials. Special attention is paid to IL-1beta converting enzyme and programmed cell death. The roles of IL-1 in hematopoiesis, leukemia, atherosclerosis, and growth of solid tumors are also discussed. This is a lengthy review, with 586 citations chosen to illustrate specific areas of interest rather than a compendium of references. At the end of each section, a short commentary summarizes what the author considers established or controversial topics linking the biology of IL-1 to mechanisms of disease.