Tumor necrosis factor (TNF) is a proinflammatory cytokine that plays a central role in acute and chronic hepatitis B and C infection and alcoholic liver disease as well as fulminant liver failure. TNF-induced liver failure is characterized by parenchymal cell apoptosis and inflammation leading to liver cell necrosis. The transcription factor NF-kappaB is believed to mediate at least part of the proinflammatory effects of TNF, and is therefore a favorite drug target. However, NF-kappaB also suppresses TNF-mediated hepatocyte apoptosis, implicating a potential cytotoxic effect of NF-kappaB inhibitors in the liver. This dual function of NF-kappaB emphasizes the need for therapeutics that can inhibit both TNF-induced NF-kappaB activation and cell death. Here we describe that adenoviral expression of the NF-kappaB inhibitory protein ABIN-1, but not an IkappaBalpha superrepressor (IkappaBalpha(s)), completely prevents lethality in the TNF/D-(+)-galactosamine-induced model of liver failure. Protection was associated with a significant decrease in TNF-induced leukocyte infiltration as well as hepatocyte apoptosis. The differential effects of ABIN-1 and IkappaBalpha(s) suggest a role for an NF-kappaB independent function of ABIN-1. Indeed, ABIN-1 was found to prevent not only NF-kappaB activation, but also apoptosis of cultured hepatocytes in response to TNF, explaining its protective effect against TNF-induced liver failure. In conclusion, ABIN-1 has a dual NF-kappaB inhibitory and anti-apoptotic activity in the liver, which might be of considerable interest for the treatment of inflammatory liver diseases.