The interleukin-1 (IL-1) system possesses two distinct receptors (type I and type II) which, together with the accessory protein, mediate a multitude of responses to IL-1 alpha and IL-1 beta, including fever. So far, no receptor subtype-specific ligands have been described. Since both types of IL-1 receptors occur in the thermoregulatory areas it was unclear which IL-1 receptor type mediates fever. We report here that for a series of deletion mutants of human recombinant IL-1 beta (hrIL-1 beta), the affinity of these ligands for the type I IL-1 receptor correlates with their efficacy to evoke the fever response (hrIL-1 beta > des-SND52-54 > des-QGE48-50 > des-I56). Thus, the results suggest that agonist occupancy of the type I IL-1 receptor is essential for IL-1 beta-mediated fever.