To understand the secretion and processing of interleukin-1 (IL-1), a Chinese hamster fibroblast cell line (R1610) was transfected with a human IL-1 beta cDNA under the control of the SV40 early promoter and linked to the gene for neomycin resistance. After selecting for transfected cells resistant to G418, two clones were found to constitutively express the IL-1 beta 31-kD precursor which was almost exclusively located in the cytosol. Pulse-chase experiments failed to show any secretion of IL-1 and very little IL-1 activity was detectable in cell supernatants. Furthermore, surface membrane IL-1 activity could not be detected, although low levels of activity could be released upon brief trypsin treatment. Therefore, unlike monocytes, these fibroblast cells lack the mechanism for secreting and processing of IL-1 beta.