We describe a bioassay that allows the in vitro investigation of the stimulatory and suppressive factors derived from immune cells in short-term cultures of human keratinocytes. In agreement with other assays, epidermal growth factor is not mitogenic for human keratinocytes. Supernatant fluid from human PBMC stimulated with Con A, from allo-MLRs, as well as supernatants from nonstimulated PBMC, possess growth-promoting molecules. Our results show that both activated and nonactivated T cells release growth factors. Suppressive molecules are produced preferentially by monocyte cultures. Two T cell products, IFN-gamma and transforming growth factor beta are both inhibitory for keratinocyte proliferation. Two other T cell products, IL-3 and GM-CSF, stimulate keratinocyte proliferation at nanogram concentrations. These results suggest the existence of regulatory circuits between the T cells of a dermal inflammatory infiltrate and the overlying epidermal keratinocytes. This may determine the fine control of epidermal proliferation and turnover leading either to enhanced wound repair or skin pathology.