Interleukin-1 (IL-1), an inflammatory/immune mediator, acts directly and selectively on cultured human vascular endothelial cells to alter two important functional properties. First, IL-1 induces endothelial cell biosynthesis and surface expression of a tissue factor-like procoagulant activity. Second, IL-1 dramatically increases the adhesiveness of the endothelial cell surface for human peripheral blood polymorphonuclear leukocytes (6-42-fold increase) and monocytes (2-5-fold increase), as well as the related leukocyte cell lines HL-60 and U937. These IL-1 effects are concentration-dependent (maximum, 5-10 U/ml), time-dependent (peak 4-6 hours), and reversible. Cycloheximide and actinomycin D block these IL-1 actions on endothelium, which suggests the requirement for de novo protein synthesis. Human-monocyte-derived IL-1, cell-line--derived IL-1, and recombinant IL-1 exhibited comparable biologic activities in our assays, whereas two other mediators, IL-2 and immune interferon, were without effect. IL-1 stimulated procoagulant activity and leukocyte adhesion in human endothelial cells cultured from both umbilical veins and adult saphenous veins but not in other cultured cell types, including SV-40-transformed human endothelial cells and human dermal fibroblasts. Similar actions of IL-1 on vascular endothelium in vivo may contribute to the development of intravascular coagulation and enhanced leukocyte--vessel wall adhesion at sites of inflammation.