Recent data indicate that certain pro-inflammatory cytokines are transcriptionally upregulated in the spinal cords of G93A-SOD1 mice, a model of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). We previously showed that the receptor for tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-R1) was notably elevated at late presymptomatic as well as symptomatic phases of disease (J. Neurochem. 82 (2002) 365). We now extend these findings by showing that message for TNFalpha, as well as mRNA for interferon gamma (IFNgamma) and transforming growth factor beta1/2 (TGFbeta1, TGFbeta2), is simultaneously increased. Furthermore, TNFalpha protein is significantly increased in G93A-SOD1 mouse spinal cords, as are protein levels for interleukin-6 (IL6), IFNgamma, and the chemokines RANTES (CCL5) and KC. The interaction of TNFalpha, IL6, and IFNgamma proteins was modeled in vitro using Walker EOC-20 murine microglia with nitrite (NO(2)(-)) efflux as a quantitative index of cell response. TNFalpha alone caused robust NO(2)(-) flux, while IL6 had a lesser effect and neither IFNgamma nor IL1beta was active when applied singly. The TNFalpha stimulus was potently magnified in the presence of IL6 or IFNgamma. When applied in combination at very low concentrations, IFNgamma co-synergized with IL6 to produce a multiplicative increase in NO(2)(-) after stimulation with TNFalpha. Taken together, these data suggest that modest increases in multiple synergistic cytokines could produce a disproportionately severe activation of microglia within the degenerating spinal cord. Our data support a model wherein TNFalpha acts as a principal driver for neuroinflammation, while several co-stimulating cytokines and chemokines act to potentiate the TNFalpha effects.