Background: Monocytes, their progeny such as dendritic cells and osteoclasts and products including tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α, interleukin (IL)-1α and IL-1β play important roles in cancer, inflammation, immune response and atherosclerosis. We previously showed that mactinin, a degradative fragment of the cytoskeletal protein α-actinin, is present at sites of monocytic activation in vivo, has chemotactic activity for monocytes and promotes monocyte/macrophage maturation. We therefore sought to determine the mechanism by which mactinin stimulates monocytes. Results: Radiolabeled mactinin bound to a heterocomplex on monocytes comprised of at least 3 proteins of molecular weight 88 kD, 79 kD and 68 kD. Affinity purification, mass spectroscopy and Western immunoblotting identified heat shock protein (Hsp)-90 as the 88 kD component of this complex. Hsp90 was responsible for mediating the functional effects of mactinin on monocytes, since Hsp90 inhibitors (geldanamycin and its analogues 17-allylamino-17-demethoxygeldanamycin [17-AAG] and 17-(dimethylaminoethylamino)-17-demethoxygeldanamycin [17-DMAG]) almost completely abrogated the stimulatory activity of mactinin on monocytes (production of the pro-inflammatory cytokines IL-1α, IL-1β and TNF-α, as well as monocyte chemotaxis). Conclusion: Mactinin is a novel inducer of Hsp90 activity on monocytes and may serve to perpetuate and augment monocytic activation, thereby functioning as a "matrikine." Blockage of this function of mactinin may be useful in diseases where monocyte/macrophage activation and/or Hsp90 activity are detrimental.