In this study, we show that distinct compartmentalization patterns of the IL-1 molecules (IL-1α and IL-1β), in the milieu of tumor cells that produce them, differentially affect the malignant process. Active forms of IL-1, namely precursor IL-1α (pIL-1α), mature IL-1β, (mIL-1β) and mIL-1β fused to a signal sequence (ssIL-1β), were transfected into an established fibrosarcoma cell line, and tumorigenicity and antitumor immunity were assessed. Cell lines transfected with pIL-1α, which expresses IL-1α on the membrane, fail to develop local tumors and activate antitumor effector mechanisms, such as CTLs, NK cells, and high levels of IFN-γ production. Cells transfected with secretable IL-1β (mIL-1β and ssIL-1β) were more aggressive than wild-type and mock-transfected tumor cells; ssIL-1β transfectants even exhibited metastatic tumors in the lungs of mice after i.v. inoculation (experimental metastasis). In IL-1β tumors, increased vascularity patterns were observed. No detectable antitumor effector mechanisms were observed in spleens of mice injected with IL-1β transfectants, mock-transfected or wild-type fibrosarcoma cells. Moreover, in spleens of mice injected with IL-1β transfectants, suppression of polyclonal mitogenic responses (proliferation, IFN-γ and IL-2 production) to Con A was observed, suggesting the development of general anergy. Histologically, infiltrating mononuclear cells penetrating the tumor were seen at pIL-1α tumor sites, whereas in mIL-1β and ssIL-1β tumor sites such infiltrating cells do not penetrate inside the tumor. This is, to our knowledge, the first report on differential, nonredundant, in vivo effects of IL-1α and IL-1β in malignant processes; IL-1α reduces tumorigenicity by inducing antitumor immunity, whereas IL-1β promotes invasiveness, including tumor angiogenesis, and also induces immune suppression in the host.