We examined the effects of interleukin-12 (IL-12) and interleukin-13 (IL-13) on cytokine, cytokine inhibitor and prostaglandin E (PGE) release from synovial fibroblasts and blood mononuclear cells (MNC). In resting synovial fibroblasts, we found that IL-13 is an inhibitor of IL-8 and PGE release. A significant decrease of PGE synthesis caused by IL-13 was also observed in tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha-stimulated synovial fibroblasts, whereas IL-12 had no regulatory effects on these cells. In resting and cytokine-stimulated MNC, IL-13 markedly inhibited IL-1 beta, IL-8 and monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1) release and potently stimulated interleukin-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1ra) synthesis. In contrast, IL-12 stimulated the production of IL-1 beta and MCP-1 in TNF-alpha-stimulated MNC and inhibited IL-1ra synthesis in cytokine-stimulated cells. These findings identify novel biological actions of IL-12 and IL-13 on connective tissue and on blood mononuclear cells which indicate their regulatory functions as enhancer and suppressor of inflammatory processes, respectively.