BACKGROUND--Lens epithelial cells (LECs) derived from human cataracts have been reported to produce various cytokines and prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) in culture. The effects of IL-1, TGF-beta, and b-FGF on the PGE2 synthesis by LECs have been studied. METHODS--A circular piece of the anterior capsule with attached LECs was obtained by capsulotomy during cataract surgery and cultured. The primary, almost confluent, cultures were used for the study. The PGE2 concentration of the culture media for 24 h was measured after the addition of recombinant human IL-1 alpha, TGF-beta 2, or b-FGF at various concentrations. The PGE2 concentration was also measured in the media to which each cytokine and rabbit polyclonal anti-human antibodies against the corresponding cytokine had been added. RESULTS--The PGE2 concentration of the culture media after addition of IL-1 alpha at the concentration of 100 or 500 pg/ml (1765 (768) and 3071 (1121) pg/10(4) cells) or TGF-beta 2 at the concentration of 10 or 100 ng/ml (689 (264) and 750 (189) pg/10(4) cells) was significantly increased compared with that in the controls (67 (20) pg/10(4) cells). These effects were suppressed by the corresponding anticytokine antibodies. Basic FGF and anti-human b-FGF showed no significant effect on the PGE2 concentration. IL-1 and TGF-beta increased but b-FGF did not affect the PGE2 synthesis by LECs in culture. CONCLUSION--IL-1 and TGF-beta may participate in postoperative inflammation after cataract surgery by increasing PGE2 synthesis by residual LECs.