Tumor necrosis factor (TNF) is a soluble protein that causes damage to tumor cells but has no effect on normal cells. Human TNF was purified to apparent homogeneity as a 17.3-kilodalton protein from HL-60 leukemia cells and showed cytotoxic and cytostatic activities against various human tumor cell lines. The amino acid sequence was determined for the amino terminal end of the purified protein, and oligodeoxyribonucleotide probes were synthesized on the basis of this sequence. Complementary DNA (cDNA) encoding human TNF was cloned from induced HL-60 messenger RNA and was confirmed by hybrid-selection assay, direct expression in COS-7 cells, and nucleotide sequence analysis. The human TNF cDNA is 1585 base pairs in length and encodes a protein of 233 amino acids. The mature protein begins at residue 77, leaving a long leader sequence of 76 amino acids. Expression of high levels of human TNF in Escherichia coli was accomplished under control of the bacteriophage lambda PL promoter and gene N ribosome binding site.