The ability of immune complexes (IC) derived from rat renal tubular epithelial (RTE) antigen to trigger the production of interleukin-1 (IL-1) was investigated. When cultured rat mesangial cells (MC) were activated by the IC, substantial amounts of IL-1 could be detected in the culture supernatants as measured by the mouse thymocyte assay. To avoid the effect of prostaglandins on the IL-1 assay, we cultured the MC with addition of indomethacin and assayed IL-1 activity in the culture supernatants. This cyclooxygenase inhibitor augmented IC-induced IL-1 production. These biological activities were neutralized by a specific antibody to IL-1. These findings suggest that IC may participate in local inflammatory responses in the kidney partly due to their capacity to induce the synthesis of MC IL-1.