In the present study, we show that cultured rat brain macrophages release a soluble factor that stimulates the migration of bone marrow-derived macrophages, as determined by an in vitro chemotaxis assay. A checkerboard analysis indicated that most of this effect resulted from a polarized migration of the cells (chemotactic phenomenon), rather than in an increase in cell motility (chemokinesis). This activity was significantly decreased by an immune serum directed against the rat monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (chernokine MCP-1). Northern blot analysis demonstrated expression of the MCP-1 gene in cultured brain macrophages, but its absence in unstimulated bone marrow-derived macrophages. Up-regulation of MCP-1 expression was observed when lipopolysaccharide was added to cultured brain macrophages, a peak occurring after a 6 h period of stimulation. Also, inflammatory cytokines such as interleukin (IL)-1β, colony stimulating factor-1, tumour necrosis factor-α and IL-6 individually increased the basal level of MCP-1 mRNA. Subsequently, we demonstrated the in vivo production of MCP-1 in the adult rat brain following injury induced by a local injection of kainic acid. MCP-1 synthesis was localized in both astrocytes and brain macrophages. These results suggest that the activation of resting microglial cells into brain macrophages and their subsequent secretion of chemokines could contribute to the mechanism(s), leading to the infiltration of the CNS by blood-derived monocytes, as observed in several pathologies.