As part of a study to identify novel genes associated with macrophage activation, we have cloned a new member of the transforming growth factor beta (TGF-beta) superfamily designated macrophage inhibitory cytokine 1 (MIC-1). MIC-1 is synthesized as a 62-kDa intracellular protein, which, after cleavage by a furin like protease, is secreted as a 25-kDa disulfide-linked dimeric protein. Sequence analysis indicates that it does not cluster within any existing TGF-beta families, suggesting it may be the first member of a new grouping within the TGF-beta superfamily. Tissue Northern blots show that MIC-1 transcripts are only found abundantly in placenta, although smaller amounts are seen in a limited number of other adult and fetal tissues. MIC-1 is not expressed in resting macrophages but is induced by a number of different activation agents, including phorbol myristate acetate, interleukin 1, tumor necrosis factor alpha, and macrophage colony-stimulating factor but not by lipopolysaccharide or interferon-gamma. We have hypothesized that it may be an autocrine inhibitor of macrophage activation but its major biological role is still uncertain.