To gain insight in immuno-endocrine communication in teleosts the physiological effects of interleukin 1 and bacterial lipopolysaccharide in teleosts were investigated. Tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus) were treated with murine interleukin 1 and E. coli lipopolysaccharide in vivo, and lipopolysaccharide was administered to pituitary lobes and head kidneys in vitro. The integument of the fish appeared to be a sensitive target for the preparations tested, since proliferation of chloride cells and of epidermal mucous cells was observed as well as an increase in epidermal thickness. These effects may relate to an acute phase-like reaction caused by the treatments. Lipopolysaccharide administration furthermore resulted in an increase in plasma free fatty acids levels. Lipopolysaccharide, but not interleukin 1, stimulated the interrenal axis of the fish, as judged by the increase in cortisol production measured in superfusion of head kidneys. In addition to these in vivo effects, lipopolysaccharide also displayed several effects in vitro. Pituitary adrenocorticotropic hormone, as well as alpha-melanocyte stimulating hormone, release was inhibited, and the head kidney responsiveness to adrenocorticotropic hormone was inhibited after pretreatment of the tissue with the E. coli product. This latter effect coincided with the release of an unidentified alpha-melanocyte stimulating hormone immunoreactive fraction by the head kidneys which could be stimulated by lipopolysaccharide. The data strongly support the notion that the immune system is involved in adaptive regulations in teleosts, and that immunoendocrine interactions are phylogenetically old mechanisms.