This study evaluated the gene expression of tumour necrosis factor (TNF) and the molecular weight of the cytotoxic factor in a subline of a rat basophilic leukaemia cell line, RBL-2H3. After IgE receptor triggering with a specific antigen that was associated with histamine release, cytotoxic activity in the cell lysates and supernatants increased for 2 hr during the culture of RBL-2H3 cells. Furthermore, calcium ionophore A23187 could induce release of histamine and cytotoxic activity from RBL-2H3 cells. However, compound 48/80, lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate (PMA) were unable to induce the release of either histamine or cytotoxic activity from the cells. These data suggested that, at least in part, there was a common pathway in histamine release and production of cytotoxic activity. A protein synthesis inhibitor, cycloheximide, did not affect histamine release, but inhibited the induction of cytotoxic activity. This cytotoxic activity from RBL-2H3 cells was completely neutralized by anti-mouse TNF rabbit serum. With Northern blot analysis, mouse TNF cDNA probe could hybridize with RNA isolated from RBL-2H3 cells. TNF mRNA was induced as early as 1 hr after stimulation with specific antigen and decreased by 4 hr. Moreover, the molecular weight (MW) of the released cytotoxic factor from RBL-2H3 cells triggered with IgE receptors was approximately 17,000 by SDS-PAGE, which was compatible to that of TNF. Thus, it is concluded that the gene expression and production of TNF occurred in RBL-2H3 cells after IgE receptor triggering in association with histamine release, suggesting that TNF produced by basophils and mast cells may play an important role in allergic reaction through its wide range of biological activity.