Pulmonary oxygen toxicity is associated with histological evidence of polymorphonuclear neutrophil (PMN) infiltration into lung parenchyma. What guides infiltration of these cells is unknown. A number of chemoattractants for PMN have been documented including interleukin-8 (IL-8), a cytokine released by alveolar macrophages (AM) and other cell types. The purposes of this study were to 1) determine whether human AM and the histiocytic U937 cell line release IL-8 in response to hyperoxia, 2) assess whether hyperoxia results in increased IL-8 steady-state mRNA levels in U937 cells and 3) establish whether dexamethasone could attenuate noted effects of hyperoxia. Our study shows that hyperoxia stimulates human AM and U937 cell release of IL-8. Hyperoxia also increase IL-8 mRNA levels in U937 cells. IL-8 released in response to hyperoxia by AM was biologically active as evidenced by ability to induce PMN chemotaxis. A polyclonal antibody to IL-8 partially attenuated this chemotactic activity. Finally, dexamethasone at concentrations of 10 μM, 1 μM, and 100 nM markedly reduced hyperoxia- induced IL-8 release and mRNA synthesis by U937 cells. We conclude that IL-8 may be important in the pathogenesis of pulmonary oxygen toxicity and that therapeutic concentrations of dexamethasone can suppress production of this cytokine.