The present study concerns the effect of the xanthine derivates lisofylline (LSF) and pentoxifylline (PTX) on the production of pro- inflammatory cytokines tumour-necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) and interleukin- 1β (IL-1β) and the de-activating cytokine interleukin-10 (IL-10) by human leucocytes during stimulation with lipopolysaccharide (LPS), heat-killed Gram-negative bacteria (GNB) or Gram-positive bacteria (GPB). The production of TNF-α and IL-1β by leucocytes stimulated with LPS, Haemophilus influenzae, type b (Hib) or Streptococcus pneumoniae was inhibited by both drugs. The production of IL-10 by leucocytes stimulated with LPS and Hib was inhibited by both xanthine derivates only at 48 hr. However, incubation of leucocytes with S. pneumoniae in the presence of LSF or PTX stimulated the production of IL-10 about four- and twofold at 24 hr and 48 hr, respectively. In all instances, the extent of inhibition or enhancement of cytokine production by LSF or PTX was equal. The divergent effects of xanthine derivates on the IL-10 production indicate the existence of distinct intracellular pathways depending on whether leucocytes are stimulated by GPB or GNB.