Human promonocyte cells chronically infected with human immunodeficiency virus type (HIV-1) (clone U1.1.5) were grown in the presence of media conditioned by human astrocytes and glioma cell lines U251 and 253. HIV-1 expression was assessed by measuring reverse transcriptase activity. All media conditioned by unstimulated and lipopolysaccharide (LPS) stimulated glial cells induced HIV-1 expression and contained detectable levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6) but not tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha). An antibody against IL-6, but not against TNF-alpha, reduced the induction of HIV-1 by the conditioned media in a concentration-dependent manner. The magnitude of HIV-1 induction by the conditioned media was proportional to the concentration of IL-6 in them. The data indicate that normal and transformed human astrocytes are capable of stimulating HIV-1 expression in chronically infected promonocytic cells by secreting IL-6. The results demonstrate that cytokines secreted by neural cells could play an important role in regulating HIV-1 expression in the brain.