Interferon gamma (IFN-gamma) exerts a variety of immunoregulatory effects on several cell targets. It is generally assumed that IFN-gamma is specifically produced by T and large granular lymphocytes. In this study, we show that IFN-gamma is constitutively expressed in resting mouse peritoneal macrophages (PM). Treatment of PM with cycloheximide results in a significant accumulation of IFN-gamma mRNA, suggesting that a short-lived IFN-gamma mRNA accumulates when protein synthesis is inhibited. Moreover, treatment of PM with IFN-gamma also results in a clear-cut accumulation of this mRNA. This effect is not observed in murine lymphocytes from mesenteric lymph nodes (which instead produce IFN-gamma after phytohemagglutinin treatment) and in mouse cell lines. The treatment of PM with IFN-gamma also results in secretion of IFN-gamma after 24-48 h. The upregulation of IFN-gamma expression is also found in PM from anti-asialo GM1-treated nude mice. We suggest that the ability of PM to produce this IFN-gamma is indicative of an autocrine mechanism. The macrophage IFN-gamma may play a role in the regulation of cell differentiation and immune response.