The blood-brain barrier is a gatekeeper and modulatory interface for the CNS. Cerebral endothelial cells are the major component of the blood-brain barrier, and they modify inflammatory signals from the circulation to the CNS by production and secretion of secondary substances. The inflammatory mediators induced by tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF) were determined by microarray analysis of RBE4 cerebral endothelial cells, at 0, 6, 12, or 24 h after TNF treatment. Interleukin (IL)-15 and its receptors were among the most robustly up-regulated genes. This was confirmed by real-time RT-PCR and western blotting. The three subunits of the IL15 receptor complex (IL15Ralpha, IL2Rbeta, and IL2Rgamma) showed differential regulation by TNF in their time course and amplitude of increased expression. Consistent with increased expression of the specific high affinity receptor IL15Ralpha, TNF increased cellular uptake of (125)I-IL15 and enhanced the fluorescent intensity of Alexa568-IL15 in RBE4 cells. TNF treatment in mice also increased the level of expression of IL15 receptors in enriched cerebral microvessels. We conclude that the cerebral microvascular IL15 system is a novel inflammatory mediator that transduces the actions of TNF.