We have examined the ability of gingival fibroblasts (GF) to participate in inflammatory response and function as accessory immune cells. The accessory immune function of GF cells was evaluated by their ability to elaborate proinflammatory cytokines following stimulation with lipopolysaccharides and interleukin-1 beta (IL-1 beta). Using three separate clonally derived and characterized human gingival fibroblast (GF) cell lines, we demonstrate that LPS from Actinobacillus actinomycetemcomitans (Aa) and Escherichia coli (Ec) induce mRNA and synthesis of proinflammatory cytokines, IL-1 beta, IL-6 and IL-8. IL-1 beta activation of GF cells showed that IL-1 beta not only induces the expression of IL-6, IL-8 and TNF-alpha, but also acts in an autocrine manner on GF cells and induces IL-1 beta expression. Furthermore, the continuous presence of IL-1 beta in GF cell cultures did not down regulate the response of GF cells to IL-1 beta. Pretreatment of GF cells with IL-1 beta resulted in the enhanced synthesis of TNF-alpha in response to additional IL-1 beta. These findings indicate that GF cells, in addition to providing structural support, may also function as accessory immune cells and play an important role in the initial inflammatory reaction as well as in the amplification of immune response.