While there is an extensive literature on cytokine regulation in vivo using human cell lines or peripheral blood monocytes, very little is known about cytokine regulation within the multicellular environment of inflammatory sites in vivo. We have previously shown that in rheumatoid synovial membrane cultures, a complex, but pathophysiologically relevant mixture of cells, the addition of a neutralizing anti TNF-alpha antibody inhibits the production of IL-1 and GM-CSF, indicating the presence of a cytokine 'cascade' in this inflammatory tissue. In this paper we demonstrate that the interactivities between cytokines in rheumatoid arthritis also extends to other cytokines, such as IL-6 and IL-8, and that within the IL-1 family it is IL-1 beta in particular which is downregulated by neutralizing TNF-alpha activity. The cytokine interactions are unidirectional, in that neutralization of TNF-alpha reduced IL-1 beta, IL-6 and IL-8 production, whereas treatment of the rheumatoid synovial membrane cells with a neutralizing concentration of the IL-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1ra) reduced IL-6 and IL-8 production but not TNF-alpha production. These results suggest a rationale for the profound anti-inflammatory effects and consequent clinical benefit noted in RA patients treated recently in clinical trials with a chimeric anti-TNF-alpha antibody in vivo.