The spontaneous as well as mitogen-induced in vitro production of interleukin-6 (IL-6) was studied in cultures of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) from 14 children with marginal protein-energy malnutrition, 43 children with definite protein-energy malnutrition and 38 eutrophic controls of similar age, sex, race and socioeconomical condition. PBMC were cultured without added mitogen or stimulated with either lipopolysaccharide (LPS) or phytohemagglutinin (PHA). After 48 h incubation, cell-free culture supernatants were collected and stored at –70°C. The amount of IL-6 in the supernatants was determined by a specific bioassay based on the proliferation of B9 hybridoma cells using human rIL-6 as standard. The mean level of IL-6 was significantly increased in supernatants from nonstimulated PBMC cultures from definitely malnourished children as compared with that observed in those of the controls. Stimulation with either LPS or PHA induced a rise in cytokine bioactivity in the supernatants of PBMC cultures from the different nutritional groups tested. Interestingly, IL-6 was significantly increased in the supernatants of PHA-stimulated cultures from malnourished children as compared with those of the controls.