Chlamydia trachomatis infection is associated with severe Fallopian tube tissue damage leading to tubal infertility and ectopic pregnancy. To explore the molecular mechanisms behind infection an ex vivo model was established from human Fallopian tubes and examined by scanning electron microscopy and immunohistochemistry. Extensive tissue destruction affecting especially ciliated cells was observed in C. trachomatis infected human Fallopian tube organ culture. Interleukin-1 (IL-1) produced by epithelial cells was detected after infection. Addition of IL-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1RA) completely eliminated tissue destruction induced by C. trachomatis. The anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-10 reduced the damaging effect of C. trachomatis infection, however, to a lesser extent than IL-1RA. Furthermore, IL-1 was found to induce IL-8, a neutrophil attractant, using a signal transduction pathway involving p38 MAP kinase. Consequently, IL-1 has the potential to generate a cellular infiltrate at the site of infection in vivo. Blocking the IL-1 receptors by IL-1RA eliminated tissue destruction and cytokine production. Hence, these studies show the importance of IL-1 in initiating the tissue destruction observed in the Fallopian tube following C. trachomatis infection. Because leukocytes are absent in the ex vivo model, this study strongly indicates that IL-1 is the initial proinflammatory cytokine activated by C. trachomatis infection.