The presence of interleukin-8 (IL-8), a leukocyte chemotactic factor, was examined in primary and metastatic central nervous system tumors and in nonneoplastic acute meningoencephalitides. In vitro: (a) 11 of 12 glioblastoma cell lines constitutively expressed IL-8 mRNA; (b) 5 of 6 of these cell lines secreted IL-8 protein as detected by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and a glucosaminidase release bioassay; and (c) IL-1/? or tumor necrosis factor was able to augment both IL-8 mRNA steady state levels and protein secretion of all cell lines tested except IN-319. IL-8 was also found in vivo, (a) IL-8 poly A+ mRNA was detected in 2 of 2 low grade astrocytomas, 1 of 2 anaplastic astrocytomas, and 6 of 6 glioblastomas, (b) IL-8 protein was present in the cyst fluid of 1 of 4 low grade astrocytomas, 1 anaplastic astrocytoma, 2 of 2 glioblastomas, 1 oligodendroglioma grade III, and one central nervous system cervical carcinoma metastasis, (c) The cerebrospinal fluid of 3 of 4 metastatic lymphomas, 2 of 16 glioblastomas, 1 of 2 low grade astrocytomas, but none of 3 anaplastic astrocytomas and none of 9 meningiomas contained IL-8. The presence of IL-8 was not restricted to central nervous system tumors as 2 of 2 bacterial meningitis and 5 of 5 acute viral meningitis patients contained considerable IL-8 levels in the cerebrospinal fluid. (d) Immunohistochemical analysis showed IL-8 immunoreactivity in perivascular tumor cells in 11 of IS glioblastoma sections. These data suggest that IL-8 secretion could be a key factor involved in the determination of the lymphoid infiltrates observed in brain tumors and the development of cerebrospinal fluid pleocytosis in meningoencephalitides. © 1992, American Association for Cancer Research. All rights reserved.