We have reported that the E3 14,700-dalton protein (E3 14.7K protein) protects adenovirus-infected mouse C3HA fibroblasts against lysis by tumor necrosis factor (TNF) (L. R. Gooding, L. W. Elmore, A. E. Tollefson, H. A. Brady, and W. S. M. Wold, Cell 53:341-346, 1988). We have also observed that the E1B 19K protein protects adenovirus-infected human but not mouse cells against TNF lysis (L. R. Gooding, L. Aquino, P. J. Duerksen-Hughes, D. Day, T. M. Horton, S. Yei, and W. S. M. Wold, J. Virol. 65:3083-3094, 1991). We now report that, in the absence of E3 14.7K, the E3 10.4K and E3 14.5K proteins are both required to protect C127 as well as several other mouse cell lines against TNF lysis. The 14.7K protein can also protect these cells from TNF in the absence of the 10.4K and 14.5K proteins. This protection by the 10.4K and 14.5K proteins was not observed in the C3HA cell line. These conclusions are based on 51Cr release assays of cells infected with virus E3 mutants that express the 14.7K protein alone, that express both the 10.4K and 14.5K proteins, and that delete the 14.7K in combination with either the 10.4K or 14.5K protein. The 10.4K protein was efficiently coimmunoprecipitated together with the 14.5K protein by using an antiserum to the 14.5K protein, suggesting that the 10.4K and 14.5K proteins exist as a complex in the infected mouse cells and consistent with the notion that they function in concert. Considering that three sets of proteins (E3 14.7K, E1B 19K, and E3 10.4K/14.5K proteins) exist in adenovirus to prevent TNF cytolysis of different cell types, it would appear that TNF is a major antiadenovirus defense of the host.