Research in recent years has examined the mechanisms underlying cellular host defence in the peritoneal cavity. These studies have established that the resident cells of the peritoneal cavity, the peritoneal macrophages (PM phi) and the mesothelial cells (HPMC) contribute to the initiation, amplification and resolution of peritoneal inflammation. Ex vivo measurements of intra-peritoneal inflammatory mediators during peritonitis has elucidated the time courses for the generation of proinflammatory, chemotactic and anti-inflammatory cytokines and have identified that their secretion occurs largely within the peritoneum. These studies provide evidence that both PM phi- and HPMC-derived mediators are directly involved in controlling inflammation. It has been widely accepted that resident PM phi form the first line of defence against peritoneal infection, a more contemporary view would suggest that the direct or indirect (via secreted pro-inflammatory cytokines) interaction between PM phi and HPMC is pivotal to the activation and subsequent amplification of the peritoneum's response to infection. Whilst the site of these interactions is unknown, considerable evidence suggests that it occurs on the surface of the mesothelium, where invading micro-organisms may colonize. In this respect Staphylococcal exoproducts can directly activate HPMC cytokine synthesis. Once the inflammatory response is initiated, recent evidence suggests, that mesothelial cells upon activation by PM phi-derived IL-1 beta and TNF-alpha, are capable of amplifying inflammation and generating signals (via the creation of a gradient of chemotactic cytokines, IL-8, MCP-1 and RANTES) for the recruitment of leukocytes into the peritoneum. This process is also facilitated via the cytokine driven up-regulation of adhesion molecule expression (ICAM-1 and VCAM-1) on HPMC. Much less is understood about the mechanisms by which inflammation is resolved, although the secretion of anti-inflammatory molecules (IL-6, IL-1ra and soluble TNF-p55/75) by receptors by PM phi and HPMC may be important in the process. The existence of a peritoneal cytokine network controlling inflammation is now well established, within this the interaction of PM phi and HPMC appears to play a pivotal role in the hosts response to peritoneal infection.