Intracerebroventricular infusion of femtomolar quantities of interleukin-1 (IL-1) or stimulated release of endogenous IL-1 in the brain suppresses various cellular immune responses, decreasing natural killer cell (NK) activity, response to mitogen, and interleukin-2 production of splenic and blood lymphocytes (an effect hereafter called “brain IL-1-induced immunosuppression”). The present study examines mechanisms by which IL-1 produces this effect. First, because IL-1 in the brain activates the pituitary-adrenal axis by stimulating release of corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF), the role of CRF was investigated. To block CRF, affinity-purified antibody to CRF was infused into the lateral ventricle 30 min before introduction of IL-1. When this was done, suppression of cellular immune responses that normally follow IL-1 infusion was completely prevented. Infusion with an equal quantity of non-CRF IgG prior to IL-1 was without effect. Second, the role of sympathetic nervous activity was examined. To block neural transmission at sympathetic ganglia, chlorisondamine (3.0 mg/kg) was injected intraperitoneally 60 min before IL-1 infusion. When this was done, suppression of immune responses by IL-1 was partially blocked. These results indicate that IL-1 in the brain suppresses various cellular immune responses by activating both the pituitary- adrenal axis and the sympathetic nervous system, and that these systems are both activated through the influence of IL-1 on CRF.