Previous reports have shown that there is an endogenous opioid component associated with pathophysiological responses to endotoxin. It has been shown that these responses are alleviated by naloxone, a specific opiate antagonist. Results of another study have indicated that leukocytes may mediate some of those responses since leukocyte depletion alleviated the effects of lipopolysaccharide. In view of the above reports as well as the finding that leukocytes produce immunoreactive (ir-) endorphins and corticotropin (ACTH) when stimulated with Newcastle disease virus or ACTH-releasing factor, we postulated that leukocytes may serve as an extrapituitary source of endorphins produced in response to bacterial endotoxin. To test this hypothesis, human peripheral blood leukocytes as well as mouse spleen cells were cultured in vitro with Escherichia coli lipopolysaccharide for 48 h. The lipopolysaccharide (i.e., endotoxin) was shown to induce de novo synthesis of ir-ACTH and ir-endorphins. The leukocyte-derived ir-ACTH had a molecular weight of approximately 2,900 and demonstrated a bioactivity similar to that of pituitary-derived ACTH. The lymphocyte-derived ir-endorphin comigrated with α- and γ-endorphin at approximately 1,00 daltons and was shown to bind to brain opiate receptors. These findings imply that leukocyte-derived endorphins may be involved in the pathophysiological response to endotoxin.