Omega-3 fatty acid (FA) emulsions reduce LPS-stimulated murine macrophage TNF-alpha production, but the exact mechanism has yet to be defined. The purpose of this study was to determine the mechanism for omega-3 FA inhibition of macrophage TNF-alpha production following LPS stimulation. RAW 264.7 cells were pretreated with isocaloric emulsions of omega-3 FA (Omegaven), omega-6 FA (Lipovenos), or DMEM and subsequently exposed to LPS. IkappaB-alpha and phospho-IkappaB-alpha were determined by Western blotting. NF-kappaB binding was assessed using the electromobility shift assay, and activity was measured using a luciferase reporter vector. RT-PCR and ELISA quantified TNF-alpha mRNA and protein levels, respectively. Pretreatment with omega-3 FA inhibited IkappaB phosphorylation and significantly decreased NF-kappaB activity. Moreover, omega-3-treated cells demonstrated significant decreases in both TNF-alpha mRNA and protein expression by 47 and 46%, respectively. These experiments demonstrate that a mechanism for proinflammatory cytokine inhibition in murine macrophages by omega-3 FA is mediated, in part, through inactivation of the NF-kappaB signal transduction pathway secondary to inhibition of IkappaB phosphorylation.