Intraperitoneal administration of human recombinant interleukin-1 (IL-1) to rats can increase blood levels of corticosterone and adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). The route by which IL-1 affects pituitary-adrenal activity is unknown. That the IL-1-induced pituitary-adrenal activation involves an increased secretion of corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) is indicated by three lines of evidence. First, immunoneutralization of CRF markedly attenuated the IL-1-induced increase of ACTH blood levels. Second, after blockade of fast axonal transport in hypothalamic neurons by colchicine, IL-1 administration decreased the CRF immunostaining in the median eminence, indicating an enhanced release of CRF in response to IL-1. Third, IL-1 did not stimulate ACTH release from primary cultures of anterior pituitary cells. These data further support the notion of the existence of an immunoregulatory feedback circuit between the immune system and the brain.