One of the pathological hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the presence of amyloid plaques. The main constituent of the amyloid plaques is the amyloid beta-peptide (A beta) shown to activate glial cells in vitro. A growing body of evidence suggests that these cells contribute to neurotoxicity through production of inflammatory cytokines, chemokines, and neurotoxic substances, such as reactive oxygen species (ROS). In this study, mRNA levels of the inflammatory cytokines interleukin (IL)-1alpha and beta, and IL-6 were analysed by reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) in rat primary mixed glial cells after treatment with A beta(25-35), a biologically active fragment of A beta peptide with neurotoxic properties. Clear morphological changes of the astrocytes, as well as proliferation and clustering of microglial cells were observed by light and immunofluorescence microscopy after 24 h treatment. Significant increases in IL-1alpha and IL-6 mRNA levels were detected after 24 and 72 h, whereas significantly increased levels of IL-1beta mRNA could only be detected after 4 h treatment. The most pronounced effect was seen on IL-6 mRNA expression, which increased approx two- to threefold after treatment. In addition, increased secretion of IL-6 was detected after 96 h exposure. Recently, association of IL-1alpha and IL-6 gene polymorphism with AD was reported, suggesting that these cytokines may play an important role in the development of the disease. The increased mRNA levels of IL-1alpha and IL-6 in parallel with the morphological changes in the mixed glial-cell cultures support that these cytokines may be involved in A beta-induced gliosis and in the pathogenesis of AD.