Stress proteins (SP) are major immunogens in a number of microbial infections and have been implicated in some autoimmune diseases. The aetiology of sarcoidosis, a non-caseating granulomatous disease, remains unknown, but mycobacteria as well as autoimmunity have been considered. In the present study, patients diagnosed with sarcoidosis and other interstitial lung diseases (ILD), as well as healthy volunteers were studied to determine: (i) the level of expression of SP in alveolar macrophages and blood monocytes; (ii) the serum levels of antibodies specific for mycobacterial SP65 and SP70; and (iii) the reactivity of peripheral blood and alveolar lymphocytes to mycobacterial SP65. Our results suggest that SP are expressed constitutively at high levels in alveolar macrophages, retrieved by bronchoalveolar lavage, from all individuals regardless of health status. In contrast, freshly isolated blood monocytes express low levels of SP, which are, however, readily upregulated following exposure to IFN-gamma and TNF-alpha. Lymphocyte reactivity and presence of antibodies against mycobacterial SP may reflect the current state of in vivo. inflammation rather than the cause of inflammation.