This study aimed to investigate the time-course of the effect of beta2-adrenoceptor stimulation with terbutaline on lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced tumour necrosis factor(TNF)-alpha production in rat mesangial cells. Cells were cultured from 0-24 h in the presence of LPS (1 microg/ml) and/or terbutaline (10(-7)-10(-8) mol/l). After 1 h of incubation, terbutaline inhibited TNF-alpha protein release as well as transcription and translation of TNF-alpha and mitogen activated protein kinase (MAPK, p42/p44) activity. At 3 h, terbutaline enhanced intracellular cAMP but suppressed TNF-alpha release and transcription. By 24 h, whereas terbutaline was no longer influencing transcription or translation, TNF-alpha release remained depressed which correlated with an increase in supernatant interleukin (IL)-6. Terbutaline did not affect the LPS-induced IL-10 produced in the cell. These findings indicate that beta2-adrenoceptor stimulation during an LPS challenge prevented TNF-alpha production as a consequence of MAPK inhibition and enhanced cAMP generation, which at a later stage was associated with an anti-inflammatory effect of IL-6.