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Neutrophil migration into the airspaces of the lung is thought to contribute to the alveolar damage and subsequent fibrosis in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). Interleukin 8 (IL-8), a monocyte- and macrophage-derived cytokine, displays potent chemotactic and activating properties towards neutrophils and thus may contribute to the pathogenesis of IPF. The objective of this investigation was to quantify the spontaneous expression of IL-8 transcripts by alveolar macrophages from normal healthy volunteers and individuals with IPF. A quantitative assay employing reverse transcription of mRNA and the polymerase chain reaction was utilized. The level of IL-8 mRNA in alveolar macrophages was found to be significantly elevated in individuals with lone IPF or with lung fibrosis associated with connective tissue disorders compared to normal healthy controls. Moreover, the level of IL-8 mRNA in the 23 individuals with IPF correlated with the number of neutrophils per milliliter in their bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) and with the degree of disease severity. In addition, the level of IL-8 protein in BAL was found to reflect the pattern of IL-8 mRNA expression by alveolar macrophages. These data suggest that IL-8 derived from alveolar macrophages may significantly contribute to neutrophil involvement in the pathogenesis of IPF.