Many mechanisms involving TNF-alpha, Th1 responses, and Th17 responses are implicated in chronic inflammatory autoimmune disease. Recently, the clinical impact of anti-TNF therapy on disease progression has resulted in re-evaluation of the central role of this cytokine and engendered novel concept of TNF-dependent immunity. However, the overall relationship of TNF-alpha to pathogenesis is unclear. Here, we demonstrate a TNF-dependent differentiation pathway of dendritic cells (DC) evoking Th1 and Th17 responses. CD14(+) monocytes cultured in the presence of TNF-alpha and GM-CSF converted to CD14(+) CD1a(low) adherent cells with little capacity to stimulate T cells. On stimulation by LPS, however, they produced high levels of TNF-alpha, matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-9, and IL-23 and differentiated either into mature DC or activated macrophages (M phi). The mature DC (CD83(+) CD70(+) HLA-DR (high) CD14(low)) expressed high levels of mRNA for IL-6, IL-15, and IL-23, induced naive CD4 T cells to produce IFN-gamma and TNF-alpha, and stimulated resting CD4 T cells to secret IL-17. Intriguingly, TNF-alpha added to the monocyte culture medium determined the magnitude of LPS-induced maturation and the functions of the derived DC. In contrast, the M phi (CD14(high)CD70(+)CD83(-)HLA-DR(-)) produced large amounts of MMP-9 and TNF-alpha without exogenous TNF stimulation. These results suggest that the TNF priming of monocytes controls Th1 and Th17 responses induced by mature DC, but not inflammation induced by activated M phi. Therefore, additional stimulation of monocytes with TNF-alpha may facilitate TNF-dependent adaptive immunity together with GM-CSF-stimulated M phi-mediated innate immunity.