Interleukin-6 (IL-6) is a pleiotropic cytokine that regulates the immune response, acute-phase reaction, and hematopoiesis. As a first step in studying the actions of IL-6 in pigs, the regulation of IL-6 expression was examined in various swine cells, including a fibroblast cell line, peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC), and alveolar macrophages. IL-6 expression in transformed swine testicular (TST) fibroblasts was enhanced by TNF and IL- 1β and to a lesser extent by poly(I)·(C) and LPS. IL-6 was induced in porcine PBMC by either LPS or PHA; however, the combination of LPS plus PHA resulted in maximal IL-6 expression. Furthermore, in PBMC cells separated by adherence, LPS was a more potent inducer than PHA in adherent cells, whereas PHA was more potent in nonadherent cells. Alveolar macrophages collected from different pigs could be divided into low and high responders with respect to IL-6 induction by LPS. IL-6 mRNA induction by LPS could be detected in only 6 of 20 donor animals. Other inflammatory cytokines (IL-8, IL-1β, and TNF) were readily induced by LPS in alveolar macrophages from both low and high responders. Treatment of low-responder alveolar macrophages with conditioned medium containing IFN-γ did not significantly alter the capacity of these macrophages to synthesize IL-6 mRNA in response to LPS. Comparison of IL-6 production capacity by the cell types in this study revealed the following order: PBMC = high-responder alveolar macrophages >> TST cells > low- responder alveolar macrophages. Thus, PBMC appear to be quantitatively the most significant source of IL-6 in swine on a per cell basis.