Interleukin (IL)-1 is a potent inducer of bone resorption, and an increased secretion of the IL-1 agonists IL-1α and IL-1β relative to the IL)-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1ra) has been proposed as a mechanism leading to post-menopausal osteoporosis. T-lymphocytes are capable of secreting bone resorptive cytokines and have also been linked with bone metabolism and the development of osteoporosis. Cytokine secretion from whole blood cell cultures was compared between two randomized groups of healthy early post-menopausal women (mean age 52.5 yrs, N = 91) and lymphocyte subsets mere quantitated by flow cytometry. One group received cyclic estrogen-gestagen replacement therapy (ERT) while the other group was untreated. In spite of a significant bone maintaining effect of ERT, the basal and LPS-stimulated secretion of IL-1α, IL-1β, and IL-1ra was identical in the two groups. There was no association between cytokine release and bone mass or loss assessed over 2 yrs. The only exception was a weak estrogen-independent correlation between basal IL-1ra secretion and bone loss (r = -0.21, p < 0.05). Flow cytometry did not confirm a relationship between CD4/CD8 T-cell ratios and bone density or loss, and there was no effect of ERT on lymphocyte subsets. The number of CD3+ CD56+ T-cells showed a highly significant negative correlation with femoral and lumbar bone density in untreated women (r = -0.42, p < 0.01) similar to that found in patients with established osteoporosis, indicating that these adherent mononuclear cells may be important in the pathophysiology of post-menopausal bone loss. The possibility that IL-1ra acts as an independent bone-sparing factor unrelated to estrogen withdrawal warrants further investigation. In conclusion, ERT maintains bone without affecting the release of the IL-1 family of cytokines in whole blood cultures.