The transcription factor NF-kappaB plays an important role in the regulated expression of cytokines in human monocytes. A p100 subunit of NF-kappaB has IkappaB-like properties by sequestering the p65 transactivating subunit in the cytosol of cells. In transient transfection assays we demonstrated that p100 has an inhibitory effect on the NF-kappaB-dependent IL-6 promoter activity. In view of this finding, we studied the regulation of the p100 subunit in human monocytes in response to LPS, the inflammatory cytokines IL-1beta and TNF-alpha and lymphokines. The results demonstrate that LPS, IL-1beta, and TNF-alpha induce p100 expression at mRNA and protein level while IFN-gamma, IL-3 and IL-4/IL-10 have no effect. The induction of p100 expression was shown to be mediated by a two-fold increase in the p100 transcription rate and a two-fold increase in p100 mRNA stability. Furthermore the p100 mediated upregulation was dependent on a tyrosine kinase dependent pathway rather than the protein kinase C pathway. NF-kappaB is a complex of either p50 homodimers or a p50/p65 heterodimer. The latter is known to strongly autoregulate p100 transcription. We therefore examined the composition of NF-kappaB induced by LPS vs the different lymphokines. LPS-induced NF-kappaB showed a distinct p65 supershift whereas the composition of NF-kappaB induced by different lymphokines did not show a change in p65. We conclude that the p100 subunit of the transcription factor NF-kappaB is induced by different inflammatory mediators while lymphokines fail to induce p100 expression which may be caused by the induction of NF-kappaB predominantly consisting of p50 homodimers.