Proliferation of ramified microglia is a common phenomenon in brain pathology, but little is known about how this is regulated. In the current study, we examined the effect of different cytokines on the proliferation of ramified microglia in vitro using a combination of autoradiography for [3H]-thymidine and immunocytochemical techniques. Ramified microglia were obtained using a 10-day co-culture on top of a confluent astrocyte monolayer. Addition of macrophage colony-stimulating factor (MCSF), granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GMCSF), and interleukin-3 (IL3), stimulated the proliferation of ramified microglia, with a 7.2-fold, 3.5-fold, and 1.5-fold increase, respectively. Of all the other cytokines tested (IL1, IL2, IL4, IL6, IL10, interferon-gamma (IFNgamma), leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF), and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNFalpha) only IL1 strongly enhanced proliferation. However, this effect of IL1 was indirect and could be neutralized by antibodies against MCSF and GMCSF. IL2, IL4, IL10, TNFalpha, and IFNgamma inhibited microglial proliferation. The great number of inhibitory cytokines could point to the importance of containing microglial proliferation in the central nervous system.