Tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) is secreted by macrophages in response to inflammation, infection and cancer. Sublethal doses of recombinant TNF-alpha to rats causes cachexia, anaemia and inflammation. TNF-alpha plays a major part in tissue inflammation and remodelling by stimulating production of collagenase. Cellular responses to TNF-alpha are initiated by binding to high-affinity cell surface receptors. TNF-alpha then profoundly affects gene regulation, stimulating the fos, myc, interleukin-1 and interleukin-6 genes and inhibiting the type I collagen gene. Here we demonstrate that TNF-alpha also stimulates collagenase gene transcription; this stimulation is mediated by an element of the gene that is responsive to the transcription factor AP-1, the major component of which (jun/AP-1) is encoded by the jun gene; and that TNF-alpha stimulates prolonged activation of jun gene expression. This prolonged induction of jun contrasts with its transient activation by the phorbol ester TPA and provides a physiological example of the ability of jun/AP-1 to stimulate its own transcription. This may be a key mechanism for mediating at least some of the biological effects of TNF-alpha.