Cellular mechanisms of TNF function in models of inflammation and autoimmunity

Curr Dir Autoimmun. 2010:11:1-26. doi: 10.1159/000289195. Epub 2010 Feb 18.


The TNF/TNF receptor (TNFR) system has a prominent role in the pathogenesis of chronic inflammatory and autoimmune disorders. Extensive research in animal models with deregulated TNF expression has documented that TNF may initiate or sustain inflammatory pathology, while at the same time may exert immunomodulatory or disease-suppressive activities. The TNF/TNFR system encompassing both the soluble and the transmembrane form of TNF with differential biological activities, as well as the differential usage of its receptors, mediating distinct functions, appears to confer complexity but also specificity in the action of TNF. The inherent complexity in TNF-mediated pathophysiology highlights the requirement to address the role of TNF taking into account both proinflammatory tissue-damaging and immunomodulatory functions in a cellular and receptor-specific manner. In this review, we discuss our current understanding of the involvement of TNF in chronic inflammation and autoimmunity, focusing on TNF-mediated cellular pathways leading to the pathogenesis or progression of joint and intestinal inflammatory pathology. Knowledge of the mechanisms by which TNF either initiates or contributes to disease pathology is fundamentally required for the design of safe and effective anti-TNF/TNFR therapies for human inflammatory and autoimmune disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / etiology
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / immunology
  • Autoimmunity / genetics
  • Autoimmunity / immunology*
  • Dendritic Cells, Follicular / immunology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / etiology
  • Inflammation / immunology*
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / etiology
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / immunology
  • Mesoderm / immunology
  • Models, Immunological*
  • Receptors, Tumor Necrosis Factor / immunology
  • Receptors, Tumor Necrosis Factor, Type I / immunology
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / genetics
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / immunology*
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / physiology


  • Receptors, Tumor Necrosis Factor
  • Receptors, Tumor Necrosis Factor, Type I
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha