Induction of expression of adhesion molecules is a crucial step in inflammation. The role of interleukin-18 (IL-18) in induction of various adhesion molecules was investigated in freshly isolated peripheral blood mononuclear cells and human monocyte and T-cell lines. IL-18 selectively up-regulated intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1) expression on freshly isolated human monocytes, but not on lymphocytes. The expression of other adhesion molecules was not influenced. Induction of ICAM-1 by IL-18 was dependent on endogenous tumour necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), and IL-12 had an additive effect on that of IL-18. No changes in adhesion molecule expression were observed on the monocytic cell line THP-1 and on the T-cell lines HSB-2 and Jurkat J16. In addition, induction of ICAM-1 on monocytes by lipopolysaccharide was slightly, but significantly, inhibited by blockade of either endogenous IL-18 or TNF-α with IL-18 binding protein or TNF binding protein, respectively. Blocking IL-1 effects with IL-1 receptor antagonist did not influence ICAM-1 levels. In conclusion, IL-18 selectively up-regulates the expression of ICAM-1 on monocytes, and this contributes to the proinflammatory effects of this cytokine.