Interleukin-6 (also called B cell stimulatory factor 2, hepatocyte activating factor, interferon-beta 2) has been shown to have effects on various lineages of hemopoietic cells. Some of its activities appear to overlap those of interleukin-1. In particular, recombinant murine IL-6 induced proliferation of phytohemagglutinin-activated thymocytes, an assay widely used to detect IL-1. In this report, we compared several features of IL-1 and IL-6 dependent thymocyte proliferation. The results indicate that IL-2 is the major second mediator of both IL-1 and IL-6 dependent proliferation. Finally, we tested whether IL-6 would also have activity in other T cell-based IL-1 assays using the T cell lymphoma LBRM33 1A5 and the T cell clone D10-G4.1. IL-6 had no activity in the latter two assays. These results indicate that IL-1 assays using LBRM33 1A5 and D10-G4.1 selectively detect Il-1, and are more specific assays for the detection of IL-1 in samples that may also contain IL-6.