Freshly isolated tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TIL) are often functionally deficient. Since one of the key functional parameters of an immune response is the local production of cytokines, we studied the expression of cytokine genes in freshly isolated renal cancer tissue. Using a PCR-assisted mRNA amplification assay, the constitutive expression of mRNA for 10 different cytokines was assessed in renal cancer tissue. We compared the cytokine mRNA expression in freshly isolated samples of renal carcinomas, renal cancer cell lines established from the tumor samples, peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) and non-tumor kidney tissue isolated from the same patients. IL-10 mRNA expression was detected only in tumor samples, while renal cancer lines, PBMC and non-tumorous kidney tissues were devoid of this cytokine. One-third of the tumor samples but none of the normal kidney samples also expressed G-CSF mRNA. IL-6, TNF-α and IFN-γ mRNA were expressed non-selectively in tumors, PBMC and normal renal tissue. Expression of IL-2, IL-3 and IL-4 mRNA was not detected in any of the tissues analyzed. Established renal cancer lines exhibited expression of IL-lα, IL-6, TNF-α and GM-CSF. Culture of tumor-derived T cells with anti-CD3 monoclonal antibody (MAb) resulted in expression of IL-2, IL-3 and IL-4 mRNA. In contrast, none of these cytokines was detected in culture with recombinant human IL-2 alone. Since IL-10 is known to suppress antigen presentation, these findings have important implications for the possible in vivo role of IL-10 as a suppressor of local anti-tumor response.