When grown in vitro, cells from Kaposi's sarcoma lesions of AIDS patients (AIDS-KS cells) constitutively release several growth promoting activities. When inoculated into nude mice, the AIDS-KS cells induce a KS-like lesion of mouse origin. Here it is shown that the AIDS-KS cells express messenger RNA for a complex mixture of cytokines that correlate with several of the biological activities of these cells. Basic fibroblast growth factor, which is a potent angiogenic factor, and interleukin-1 messenger RNAs are expressed at very high levels and seem to account for a large proportion of the activities, since their corresponding proteins are released in biologically active form into the culture media where they induce autocrine and paracrine growth effects.