Loading of tissue macrophages with dialysis-tubing-derived particles may occur during chronic haemodialysis. Previous studies have demonstrated that these particle-laden macrophages release significant quantities of prostaglandins. In these experiments, the effects of dialysis-tubing-particle loading on the release of the central inflammatory mediator, interleukin 1 (IL 1), was examined. Rats received daily injections of silicone or polyvinylchloride (PVC) particles, and were compared to animals given saline alone. The silicone and PVC groups received a total of 3 x 10(9) particles over a 4-week period. Non-stimulated peritoneal macrophages from control animals released a median of 4.1 (range 1.2-10.3) U IL 1 per 10(6) cells. In contrast, macrophages from silicone- and PVC-loaded animals spontaneously released high levels of IL 1 (median 21.8; range 10-36.7) and 94 (range 36-336) U per 10(6) cells respectively). Following in vitro stimulation with bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS), peritoneal macrophages from silicone- and PVC-treated animals released large amounts of IL 1 (median 538 (range 359-2017) U and median 653 (range 326-1134) U per 10(6) cells, respectively) as compared to LPS-stimulated macrophages from control animals (median 332 (range 130-306) U per 10(6) cells]. Zymosan or LPS stimulation of splenic cells from silicone- and PVC-loaded animals also secreted increased quantities of IL 1 as compared to controls. The chronic loading of tissue macrophages in dialysis patients with tubing-derived particles may result in augmented release of IL 1, with subsequent activation of inflammatory processes.