Treatment of symptomatic carcinomatous pleural effusions is primarily directed at local palliation with a wide variety of sclerosing agents, of which talc is considered to be the most successful. The mechanism whereby talc achieves this effect is unknown. The objective of this study was to investigate whether talc stimulates pleural mesothelial cells (PMC) to release C-X-C and/or C-C chemokines and express adhesion molecules that initiate and amplify the inflammatory process in the pleural space. When PMC were challenged with talc in vitro, interleukin-8 (IL-8) and monocyte chemotactic protein-1 (MCP-1) levels were increased (p < 0.001) both at the protein and the mRNA level as compared with unstimulated cultures. Talc- stimulated PMC culture supernatant showed chemotactic activity for neutrophils and monocytes. The chemotactic activity of PMC culture supernatant was blocked by 44.2% with IL-8-specific antibody and by 55.7% with MCP-1-specific antibody, demonstrating that PMC-derived chemokines are bioactive. Talc also enhanced intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1) expression in PMC. The data demonstrate that talc stimulates PMC to release chemokines and express adhesion molecules that may play a critical role in pleurodesis.