Oxidized low-density lipoprotein (oxLDL)-regulated secretion of inflammatory cytokines in smooth muscle cells (SMCs) is regarded as an important step in the progression of atherosclerosis; however, its underlying mechanism remains unclear. This study investigated the role of toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) in oxLDL-induced expression of inflammatory cytokines in SMCs both in vivo and in vitro. We found that the levels of TLR4, interleukin 1-β (IL1-β), tumor necrosis factor-α (TNFα), monocyte chemoattractant protein 1 (MCP-1) and matrix metalloproteinase-2 (MMP-2) expression were increased in the SMCs of atherosclerotic plaques in patients with femoral artery stenosis. In cultured primary arterial SMCs from wild type mice, oxLDL caused dose- and time-dependent increase in the expression levels of TLR4 and cytokines. These effects were significantly weakened in arterial SMCs derived from TLR4 knockout mice (TLR4-/-). Moreover, the secretion of inflammatory cytokines was blocked by TLR4-specific antibodies in primary SMCs. Ox-LDL induced activation of p38 and NFκB was also inhibited in TLR4-/- primary SMCs or when treated with TLR4-specific antibodies. These results demonstrated that TLR4 is a crucial mediator in oxLDL-induced inflammatory cytokine expression and secretion, and p38 and NFκB activation.