BACKGROUND: Small intestinal epithelial cells (SIEC) may contribute to local immune regulation. AIM: To examine production of interleukin (IL)-1alpha, IL-1beta and IL-6 by freshly isolated human SIEC. METHODS: IL-1alpha and IL-1beta mRNA in epithelial layers (EL) prepared from small intestine and in intestinal epithelial cell (EC) lines were examined by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction. IL-1alpha, IL-1beta and IL-6 protein expression by SIEC was examined by flow cytometry before and after activation with lipopolysaccharide and epithelial growth factor. RESULTS: IL-1alpha and IL-1beta mRNA was detected in EL and EC lines. Background expression of IL-1alpha and IL-1beta protein by SIEC was observed, which did not increase even following activation. IL-6 protein was expressed by SIEC, in a proportion that increased in two out of three samples following activation. CONCLUSIONS: IL-6 expression and the presence of IL-1alpha and IL-1beta mRNA suggest a role for SIEC in the regulation of local inflammation.