Interleukin-2 (IL-2), originally described as a growth factor required for sustained proliferation of T cells in vitro is a glycoprotein hormone of known structure which appears to be important for the generation of immune responses in vivo. As well as T lymphocytes, B lymphocytes and large granular lymphocytes with natural killer activity (NK cells) can also respond to IL-2. The action of IL-2 seemed to be limited specifically to lymphocytes, however, and the term 'T-lymphocytotrophic hormone' was used. Here we provide evidence that human monocytes display a substantially increased cytotoxic activity as a direct and rapid response to human recombinant IL-2 but not to human recombinant glycosylated interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) or lipopolysaccharide. Our results reveal a previously unknown function of IL-2 and suggest its possible involvement in monocyte-T cell interactions.