We have recently generated human papillomavirus (HPV) 16/E6E7 immortalized epithelial cell lines from the human vagina, ectocervix, and endocervix to use in studies on the role of these cells in reproduction and immune defense. The cell lines maintain the differentiation characteristics of their tissues of origin: the endocervical cell line expresses characteristics of simple columnar epithelium, whereas the ectocervical and vaginal cell lines express characteristics of stratified squamous nonkeratinizing epithelia. As a first step in elucidating the role of these cells in immune defense, we have studied the expression of immunological mediators in nonstimulated and stimulated cultures. Without stimulation, all three lines consistently produced the cytokines macrophage colony-stimulating factor (M-CSF) and transforming growth factor beta1, the chemokine interleukin (IL)-8, prostaglandin E2, the secretory leukoproteinase inhibitor, and the polymeric immunoglobulin receptor. The endocervical cell line, but not the others, also produced the lymphopoietic cytokines IL-6, IL-7, and consistently detectable levels of the chemokine known as "regulated-upon-activation, normal T cell expressed and secreted" (RANTES). Stimulation with the exogenous cytokines interferon gamma and tumor necrosis factor alpha induced or significantly up-regulated expression of several of the cytokines and chemokines (i.e., IL-6, IL-8, RANTES, and M-CSF), as well as major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II antigens, and membrane expression and shedding of the intercellular adhesion molecule-1 in all three cell lines. These data provide further evidence that epithelial cells in the lower human female genital tract participate in immunological functions, that their activity is up-regulated by proinflammatory/immune cytokines, and that epithelial cell immunological functions vary at different anatomical sites in the genital tract.