The plasma level of erythropoietin (Epo) in anemic patients suffering from inflammation is often low in relation to the blood hemoglobin concentration. Various proinflammatory cytokines have been tested for their action on the synthesis of Epo. Interleukin 1 (IL-1) and tumor necrosis factor-alpha(TNF-alpha) suppress Epo gene expression in isolated perfused rat kidneys and in human hepatoma cell cultures. IL-6 inhibits in the kidney, and conflicting results have been reported for its effect on Epo synthesis in hepatic cells. Several other cytokines tested were without effect. Thus, mainly IL-1 and TNF-alpha seem to be responsible for the defect in Epo production in severe systemic and renal inflammatory diseases.