Some adverse reactions to the transfusion of platelet concentrates (PCs) cannot be attributed to antibodies against blood cells or to subclinical microbial agents. It has been suggested that leucocyte-derived inflammatory cytokines such as interleukin (IL)-1, IL-6 and tumour necrosis factor (TNF) may contribute to a large number of unexplained non-antibody-mediated adverse reactions. Three types of PCs, containing different levels of leucocytes, are currently produced. Filtration is used on demand to further reduce leucocyte contamination of these components. We have monitored the plasma of PCs prepared by the platelet-rich plasma method (PRP), the buffy-coat method or by apheresis for IL-6, IL-1, transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-β), TNF and interferon γ (IFNγ). Biologically active IL-6 increased in stored PRP-PCs from a mean of 140 pg/ml on day 1 to 2395 pg/ml on day 5/6. Elevated levels of IL-8, as detected by immunoassay, were evident in PRP-PCs during routine storage under blood bank conditions. Small amounts of immunoreactive IL-1 with only minimal biological activity were present in some PRP-PCs by day 5/6. No significant increase in the levels of IL-8, IL-6 or IL-1 were seen in buffy-coat PCs during storage for 5/6 d. For apheresis PCs, an increase in IL-8 content, but not in IL-6 over 6 d was observed. In all three types of PCs, elevated amounts of both bioactive and immunoreactive TGFβ were present, but there was no evidence of any biologically active or immunoreactive TNFα. Pre-storage filtration of PRP-PCs for depletion of leucocytes prevented the increase in IL-8 and IL-6 levels of these PCs. Our results show that leucocyte reduction by buffy-coat method reduces cytokine levels to a comparable level to filtered or apheresis PCs, containing low levels of leucocytes, but use of these PCs in minimizing the severity and incidence of reactions in recipients will require clinical evaluation. This is the first comprehensive and comparative study which, on the basis of biological activity of cytokines, directly indicates that the mode of platelet production grossly influences the levels of cytokines.