The aims of this study were to investigate the concentration and release of interleukin-1α (IL-1α) at the time of human term labour, and to study the regulation of IL-1α release from human gestational tissue explants by bacterial endotoxin. Immunoreactive IL-1α concentrations in maternal plasma, amniotic fluid and conditioned media from human amniotic, choriodecidual and placental explants were quantified before and after spontaneous term labour-onset and delivery. Furthermore, the effects of a bacterial endotoxin, lipopolysaccharide (LPS), on the release of IL-1α from human gestational tissue explants over a time course of 24 h (n=3) and LPS concentrations ranging from 10–107 pg/ml (n=3) were investigated. IL-1α concentrations in maternal plasma and amniotic fluid did not change significantly with spontaneous term labour-onset. In contrast, IL-1α was released in detectable amounts from human amniotic and choriodecidual explants only in association with term labour-onset and delivery. Similarly, placental release of IL-1α was increased significantly in explant cultures in association with term labour-onset and delivery. LPS increased IL-1α release significantly only from human placental explants from both term not-in-labour and term after-labour tissues. The data demonstrate differential regulation of IL-1α release from human gestational tissues in association with labour and LPS treatment and the observations support the hypothesis that the labour-associated increase in IL-1α release from the fetal membranes is independent of exposure to bacterial endotoxin.