The clinical picture of influenza A virus infections indicates that release of tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) may be involved. In the present study we exposed the murine macrophage line PU5-1.8 to influenza A virus and observed a productive infection which was followed by subsequent cell death. Infection of macrophages was accompanied by TNF-alpha mRNA accumulation and TNF-alpha release. TNF-alpha production could only be induced by live virus whereas interferon release was also stimulated by inactivated virus. When virus-infected macrophages were exposed to low amounts of lipopolysaccharide (LPS; 1-10 ng/ml) TNF-alpha production was strongly potentiated. These data show that low LPS concentrations could readily trigger a high TNF-alpha release from influenza-A-virus-infected macrophages which could, at least partially, explain the serious complications of combined influenza A virus and bacterial infections.