The present studies were designed to determine the site of and the mechanism for the rapid increase in IL-6 and IL-8 mRNA observed in human visceral adipose tissue after removal during laparoscopic bariatric surgery. Upregulation of IL-6 and IL-8 mRNA as well as their release were seen within 3h whether one intact piece of tissue or minced pieces of adipose tissue were incubated in vitro. Most of the IL-6 and IL-8 mRNA content of visceral adipose tissue after 3h of incubation was in the non-fat cells. Actinomcyin D markedly reduced the upregulation of IL-6 and IL-8 mRNA. Incubation of adipose tissue explants with a soluble TNFalpha receptor (etanercept) plus a blocking antibody against IL-lbeta reduced by 55% the increase in IL-6 mRNA and by 42% that of IL-8 mRNA seen between 1 and 5h of incubation. The upregulation of IL-8 and IL-6 mRNA accumulation as well as their release over a 2 or 4h incubation was reduced by around 50% in the presence of an inhibitor of the p38 MAPK or an inhibitor of the NFkappaB pathway and by 85% in the presence of both inhibitors. The data suggest that the relative trauma and/or hypoxia that occurs when adipose tissue is removed results in the release of TNFalpha and IL-1beta. These cytokines, and probably other factors as well, enhance IL-6 and IL-8 mRNA accumulation in human adipose tissue explants through mechanisms involving the p38 MAPK and NFkappaB pathways.