Lf presented differential effects in the induction of normal human monocyte activation. Lf inhibits the free radical generation by normal human monocytes in response to PMA. This effect on free radical generation is linked to the nature of the divalent cationic metal that substitutes the Apo-Lf. Indeed, the substitution of Fe2+ by another cationic transition metal (Cu2+, Zn2+, Pt2+ or Au2+) modifies the anti-oxidant effect of Lf. Among the different substituted Lf the Lf saturated with Cu2+ is the more potent inhibitor of free radical generation by normal human monocytes. In addition to its anti-oxidant effect, Lf stimulates, in combination with LPS, the production of cytokines (IL-1 beta, TNF-alpha and IL-6) and of prostacyclin (PGI2) by normal human monocytes. This potentiating effect is independent of the cation that substitutes the Lf, since the Apo-Lf is able to induce such a potentiating effect. In addition, whereas Lf does not modulate the phenotype of normal human monocytes stimulated or not with IL-4 it does enhance the IL-4-induced release of the soluble form of CD23 by these cells.