Spontaneous preterm birth due to intrauterine infection is associated with increased concentrations of cytokines in amniotic fluid and in the airways at birth. Intra-amniotic IL-1 induces fetal lung maturity, consistent with the decrease in the incidence of respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) in intrauterine inflammation. On the other hand, antenatal corticosteroid decreases the incidence of RDS in infants born prematurely. The aim of the present study was to investigate the interaction between IL-1 and glucocorticoid in the expression of the surfactant proteins SP-A, -B, and -C. Lung explants from rabbit fetuses at 22 (immature), 27 (transitional), and 30 (mature) d of gestation (term, 30-31 d) and on d 1 after term birth were cultured with dexamethasone (Dx), IL-1alpha, or vehicle in the presence or absence of actinomycin D. According to the present results, IL-1alpha and Dx additively increased the expression of SP-A and SP-B on d 22. Later in gestation, SP-B and SP-C were suppressed by IL-1, whereas glucocorticoid tended to increase the expression of SP-B and SP-C and prevented the IL-1-induced suppression of SP. IL-1alpha and steroid interactively increased the stability of SP mRNA compared with the single agonist, possibly explaining the additive effects on the SP mRNA levels. The present results reveal beneficial additive effects of glucocorticoid and cytokine on lung surfactant. They may explain some of the acute beneficial effects of glucocorticoid therapy in chorioamnionitis before premature birth and in inflammatory lung disease after birth.