The cyclooxygenase (COX) isoforms COX-1 and COX-2 convert arachidonic acid to prostaglandin (PG) precursors and are a limiting step in PG production. Interleukin-1beta (IL-1beta) treatment of type II A549 cells increases PGE2 synthesis via transcription- and translation-dependent induction of COX-2. IL-1beta produces a 10-fold induction of COX-2 mRNA and an 8-fold increase in COX-2 transcription that was temporally preceded by activation of the transcription factor nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-kappaB). The protein-tyrosine phosphatase inhibitor phenylarsine oxide (PAO) prevented both NF-kappaB activation and induction of COX-2 mRNA. We show that two putative NF-kappaB motifs, kappaBu (-447/-438) and kappaBd (-224/-214), from the COX-2 promoter bind p50/p65 NF-kappaB heterodimers in an IL-1beta-dependent manner and that the upstream element has the greater affinity. Finally, we demonstrate that the two NF-kappaB subunits, p50 and p65, synergistically activate a -917/+49 COX-2 promoter construct. We conclude that IL-1beta stimulates PG production via transcriptional activation of COX-2 and provide evidence that this may involve NF-kappaB.