Rat lung alveolar macrophages and type 2 cells were exposed for 20 h in vitro to various stone particles with differing contents of metals and minerals (a type of mylonite, gabbro, feldspar, and quartz). The capability to induce the release of the inflammatory cytokines interleukin-6 (IL-6), tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), and macrophage inflammatory protein-2 (MIP-2) was investigated. We found marked differences in potency between the various particles, with mylonite being most potent overall, followed by gabbro, and with feldspar and quartz having an approximately similar order of lower potency. The results also demonstrated differences in cytokine release pattern between the two cell types. For all particle types including quartz, type 2 cells showed the most marked increase in MIP-2 and IL-6 secretion, whereas the largest increase in TNF-alpha release was observed in macrophages. To investigate possible correlations between in vitro and in vivo inflammatory responses, rats were instilled with the same types of particles and bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid was collected after 20 h. The results demonstrated a correlation between the in vitro cytokine responses and the number of neutrophilic cells in the BAL fluid. The BAL fluid also showed a strong MIP-2 response to mylonite. However, this was the only particle type to give a significant cytokine response in the BAL fluid. We further examined whether a similar graded inflammatory response would be continued in type 2 cells and alveolar macrophages isolated from the exposed animals. Again a differential cytokine release pattern was observed between type 2 cells and macrophages, although the order of potency between particle types was altered. In conclusion, various stone particles caused differential inflammatory responses after both in vitro and in vivo exposure, with mylonite being the most potent stone particle. The results suggest the alveolar type 2 cell to be an important participant in the inflammatory response following exposure to particles.