A protocol for the rapid, efficient purification of the major charged species of human interleukin 1 (IL-1) has been developed using high performance anion exchange and size exclusion chromatography. The isolated material is pure as determined by sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS) gradient polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (PAGE) and analytical isoelectric focusing (IEF). The molecular weight of the purified material is 15,000 and the isoelectric point (pI) is 6.8, values that are in good agreement with those previously reported for human IL-1. 10(-10) M concentrations of the purified material give half-maximal stimulation in the thymocyte proliferation assay. Amounts of IL-1 sufficient for receptor studies and detailed biochemical analysis can now be produced on a regular basis.