1. We studied the changes in interleukin-1 and interleukin-6 secretion by peripheral blood mononuclear cells from 12 premenopausal women after oophorectomy and seven premenopausal women who had undergone simple hysterectomy. 2. The results showed that 1 month after surgery interleukin-1 secretion increased by 414 +/- 171% (mean +/- SEM) and interleukin-6 secretion increased by 1354 +/- 481% in oophorectomized women, whereas only non-significant fluctuations in the secretion of both cytokines (-9% +/- 29% for interleukin-1 and -31% +/- 19% for interleukin-6) were seen in the women who had undergone simple hysterectomy. The difference between the two groups was significant (P = 0.035 for interleukin-1 and P = 0.003 for interleukin-6). In addition, oophorectomy, but not simple hysterectomy, was followed by significant increases in plasma ionized calcium concentration (P < 0.05), plasma alkaline phosphatase activity (P < 0.01) and plasma osteocalcin concentration (P < 0.02), and a reduction in plasma parathyroid hormone level (P < 0.01). 3. We conclude that ovary ablation may modify cytokine secretion by peripheral blood mononuclear cells. If this phenomenon occurs in the bone microenvironment, it could be important in the loss of bone observed after oophorectomy. However, the possibility of an independent alteration induced by the lack of gonadal hormones but unrelated to bone turnover cannot be excluded.