Tumor necrosis factor/cachectin (TNF) has been implicated as a mediator of the host response in sepsis and neoplasia. Recent work has shown that TNF can modulate endothelial cell hemostatic properties, suggesting that endothelium is a target tissue for TNF. This led us to examine whether endothelial cells have specific binding sites for TNF and augment the biological response to TNF by elaborating the inflammatory mediator, IL-1. Incubation of 125I-recombinant human TNF with confluent, cultured human umbilical vein endothelial cells resulted in time-dependent, reversible, and saturable binding. Binding was half-maximal at a TNF concentration of 105 +/- 40 pM, and at saturation 1,500 molecules were bound per cell. Heat-treated TNF, which is biologically inactive, did not bind to endothelium. In addition to surface binding, TNF induced the elaboration of IL-1 activity by endothelial cells in a time-dependent manner. Generation of IL-1 activity required protein synthesis and was half-maximal at a TNF concentration of 50 +/- 20 pM. IL-1 activity from TNF-treated endothelium could be adsorbed by an immobilized antibody to IL-1. Heat-treated TNF was ineffective in eliciting endothelial cell IL-1. These data indicate that TNF can bind specifically to endothelium and initiate a cascade of inflammatory and coagulant events on the vessel surface potentially central to the host response to neoplasia and sepsis.

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