Interleukin 1 is a monokine that exerts biological effects on a variety of target cells in vitro. In this report, interleukin 1 has been found to be capable of stimulating collagenase production by cultured dermal fibroblasts. The concentrations of interleukin 1 that stimulate fibroblast collagenase production are similar to those that stimulate mouse thymocyte proliferation. Analyses by high performance liquid chromatography indicate that interleukin 1, rather than a contaminating monokine, is responsible for this effect on fibroblasts. Interleukin 1, released in vivo by macrophages infiltrating sites of tissue damage or inflammation, may function to stimulate the release of collagenase by connective tissue fibroblasts.