We investigated two genetic polymorphisms in the tumor necrosis factor locus (TNF-alpha -308 G-->A and LT-alpha +252 A-->G) as risk factors for coronary atherothrombotic disease (CAD) by determining its prevalence in 148 survivors of myocardial infarction (MI) with angiographically-proven severe CAD, and in 148 age-, gender- and race-matched controls. The odds ratio (OR) for MI related to the mutant TNF-alpha and LT-alpha alleles was 0.8 (CI95: 0.4-1.3) and 1. 3 (CI95: 0.8-2.0), respectively. We also sought interaction of smoking and metabolic risk factors for MI with each mutant genotype. Smokers not carrying the LT-alpha +252 A-->G mutation had a risk of MI of 2.7 (CI95: 1.4-5.4) whereas in smoking carriers the risk was 6. 9 (CI95: 3.4-14.1). An interactive effect of the LT-alpha mutation may also exist with dyslipidemia (OR for MI in non-carriers was 12 [CI95: 3.2-41.3] and in carriers the OR was 39, [CI95: 5.1-301] and with obesity (OR for MI was 2.7, [CI95: 1-7.2] in non-carriers and in carriers the OR was 6 [CI95: 2.1-16.8]). Lastly, the OR for MI in obese non-carriers of TNF-alpha -308 G-->A was 2.8 (CI95: 1.3-6) and in obese carriers the OR was 14.5 (CI95: 1.8-113). Although significant interactive effects could not be detected, the findings suggest that interaction of polymorphisms in the TNF locus with major risk factors for CAD may exist, and should be explored in larger studies.