The invasive property of trophoblast cells is dependent on the activity of proteolytic enzymes of the metallo- and serine proteases family. Interleukin-1 (IL-1) was found to be involved in the regulation of these proteases in various systems, serving as an important modulator in trophoblast physiology (e.g. induction of hCG beta, cytokines, and others). Therefore, consideration is given in this report to the role of IL-1 in the regulation of metalloprotease activity in human trophoblasts. Human trophoblast cells were isolated from first trimester placentas by trypsin degradation and Percoll fractionation. Primary cell cultures of first trimester trophoblasts constitutively elaborated two species of collagenase type IV (92 and 72 kDa), as assessed in gelatin matrix. Treatment with IL-1 further augmented the 92-kDa type IV collagenase secretion in a dose-dependent manner. Furthermore, IL-1 significantly (P < 0.01) increased 92-kDa collagenase gene expression by trophoblast cells, as determined by solution hybridization/ribonuclease protection assay. Both the increase in gene expression and protein biosynthesis of the 92-kDa collagenase type IV were neutralized by the soluble IL-1 receptor, indirectly suggesting a receptor-mediated response. Interestingly, transforming growth factor-beta a putative modulator of IL-1 induced effects, was shown to induce the 92-kDa collagenase type IV secretion as well. These results provide indirect evidence supporting the idea that IL-1 and transforming growth factor-beta may play an intermediary role in trophoblast invasion at the feto-maternal interface by regulating trophoblast expression of 92-kDa type IV collagenase, a protease of prime importance in trophoblast invasion.