The vascular permeability factor (VPF) is a lymphokine that has been shown to play a role in lipoid nephrosis (LN). Prior studies have shown that interleukin (IL) 12 promotes T helper type 1 differentiation and enhances production of T helper type 1 cytokines such as gamma interferon and IL-2. We, therefore, investigated the effects of recombinant human IL-12 on the release of VPF by peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) from LN patients. The VPF activity was measured according to the method of Ovary, with minor modifications. The goal of the present study was to examine the importance of IL-12 in concanavalin A induced VPF release in vitro. The levels of VPF were measured in a group of healthy subjects, LN patients with or without the nephrotic syndrome, and patients suffering from IgA nephropathy. There was a significantly increased concanavalin A induced release of VPF in LN and IgA nephropathy patients with nephrotic syndrome as compared with normal controls. Recombinant human IL-12 was found to enhance VPF release in a dose-dependent manner. Neutralization of endogenously produced IL-12 by anti-IL-12 antibody resulted in a decreased release of VPF by LN PBMC. These data indicate that endogenously produced IL-12 functions as a costimulatory molecule in vitro. Our data show that IL-12 can upregulate the release of VPF derived from LN PBMC. Thus IL-12 might be a potent adjuvant for inducing VPF. Therefore, IL-12 antagonists may interfere with newly initiated and ongoing VPF release associated with nephrotic syndrome.