Human cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection is often associated with myelosuppression and acute inflammatory reaction in immunocompromised patients. We have previously documented that CMV exposure of bone marrow (BM) stromal cells reduces the capacity of these cells to support hematopoiesis because of a decreased production of colony-stimulating factors. This study examines the potential role of CMV on constitutive and lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-stimulated production of cytokines involved in inflammatory reaction, interleukin-6 (IL-6) and leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF) by BM stromal cells. The release of IL-6 was already detectable 2 hours post CMV-infection (2.5-fold increase in production) and the cumulative production of IL-6 after 5 days of infection was 23 +/- 1.2 ng/mL (ninefold increase in production). CMV was also able to induce a time-dependent production of LIF that was maximal 8 hours after CMV infection (2.5-fold increase in production). Concomitantly, there was no detectable release of granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF) and granulocyte-macrophage CSF (GM-CSF) by CMV-infected stromal cells. The similar IL-6 and LIF production in the presence of polymyxin B ruled out the possibility that this increase could be caused by contamination of the viral stock by endotoxin. In addition, ultraviolet-inactivated virus behaved similarly to live virus and caused the release of IL-6 and LIF. However, heat-inactivated CMV was unable to induce IL-6 and LIF secretion by BM stromal cells. The production of IL-6 and LIF was also evaluated after stimulation by LPS. After 5 days of CMV exposure, the LPS-stimulated production of IL-6 and LIF was significantly lower than uninfected controls. This LPS-induced release of cytokine production was found to be dependent of viral replication. The experiments have shown that CMV is a potent inducer of IL-6 and LIF with differential effect on constitutive and LPS-stimulated cytokine production by stromal cells; we suggest that CMV induction of IL-6 and LIF during the first hours of infection could play a role in CMV-induced inflammatory reaction. Moreover, our results show that human CMV can disturb the balanced cytokine network involved in the regulation of hematopoiesis.