Activation of inflammatory pathways represents a central mechanism in multiple disease states both acute and chronic. Triggered via either pathogen or tissue damage-associated molecular motifs, common biochemical pathways lead to conserved yet variable physiological and immunological alterations. Dissection and delineation of the determinants and mechanisms underlying phenotypic variance in response is expected to yield novel therapeutic advances. Intravenous (IV) administration of endotoxin (gram-negative bacterial lipopolysaccharide), a specific Toll-like receptor 4 agonist, represents an in vivo model of systemic inflammation in man. National Institutes for Health Clinical Center Reference Endotoxin (CCRE, Escherichia coli O:113:H10:K negative) is employed to reliably and reproducibly generate vascular, hematological, endocrine, immunological and organ-specific functional effects that parallel, to varying degrees, those seen in the early stages of pathological states. Alteration of dose (0.06 - 4 ng/kg) and time-scale of exposure (bolus vs. infusion) allows replication of either acute or chronic inflammation and a range of severity to be elicited, with higher doses (2 - 4 ng/kg) frequently being used to create a 'sepsis-like' state. Established and novel medicinal compounds may additionally be administered prior to or post endotoxin exposure to appreciate their effect on the inflammatory cascade. Despite limitations in scope and generalizability, human IV endotoxin challenge offers a unique platform to gain mechanistic insights into inducible physiological responses and inflammatory pathways. Rationally employed it may aid translation of this knowledge into therapeutic innovations.