In recent literature, lymphokines have been reported to be able to promote both proliferation and maturation of some glial populations. In this paper, we compare the effect of rIL-1 on newborn and adult rat astroglial cells in vitro. In newborn, but not in adult astrocytes, 100 U/ml of rIL-1 beta increase [3H]thymidine incorporation with a maximal response by 3 days as compared to the control untreated culture. In contrast, rIL-1 beta induces an increase of GFAP immunoreactivity both in newborn and in adult astrocytes, as compared to the control untreated cells. These data indicate that, while both newborn and adult astroglial cells are capable of responding to rIL-1 beta, only newborn astrocytes can respond to this lymphokine with proliferation. Thus, it appears likely that different factors, other than rIL-1 beta, are needed by adult astrocytes to proliferate.