Human fibroblast cultures, when stimulated with interleukin-1 (IL-1) produce a growth factor for B-cell hybridoma and plasmocytoma cell lines. The availability of both a fast-growing and high-producer cell line (MG-63 osteosarcoma cells) and of a highly sensitive and specific assay system for this hybridoma growth factor (HGF) allowed us to obtain analytically pure preparations. Crude HGF from MG-63 cells was processed through a five-step concentration and purification schedule. Sequential adsorption to controlled pore glass (CPG) beads, antibody affinity chromatography and gel filtration resulted in a 10,000-fold purification to a specific activity of 10(9) units/mg HGF. Electrophoretically pure HGF was obtained after additional purification by cation-exchange chromatography and reversed-phase HPLC. The purification procedure revealed two distinct biologically active HGF components. The amino-terminal sequence of one of the two components was determined and found to correspond to that already predicted from cDNA clones of a protein alternatively called 26-kDa protein, interferon-beta 2 (IFN-beta 2) or B-cell stimulating factor-2 (BSF-2). The first two designations (26-kDa protein and IFN-beta 2) refer to a postulated fibroblast secretory protein with so far no unambiguously defined function; the latter designation (BSF-2) refers to a T-cell product possessing differentiation stimulatory effect on B-cell lines. The reported results firmly establish that the protein is secreted by fibroblasts and reveal that it possesses B-cell growth stimulatory activity. The new designation interleukin-6 (IL-6) is proposed to resolve prescribing nomenclature confusion.