The purpose of these studies was to determine if Interleukin-1 (IL-1) alters the rate of prostaglandin biosynthesis by human amnion. Primary monolayer cultures of amnion cells were established from women undergoing elective cesarean section before the onset of labor. Natural purified and recombinant human IL-1 alpha and IL-1 beta were incubated with amnion cells in culture, and prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) biosynthesis was measured by radioimmunoassay in cell-free media. A concentration-dependent increase in PGE2 production by amnion cells occurred in response to natural purified and recombinant IL-1 preparations. No differences in the parameters of the dose-response curves between the two IL-1 gene products could be determined (p greater than 0.05). Indomethacin blocked the effect of IL-1 in prostaglandin biosynthesis by human amnion. Interleukin-1, a fever mediator, could serve as a signal for the initiation of labor in cases of intrauterine or systemic infection.