It is well known that interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma; type II) potentiates various responses of human tumor necrosis factor (TNF) in a wide variety of cells and that this potentiation is accompanied by the up-regulation of TNF receptor synthesis. In the present studies we examined the regulation of TNF receptors by type I and type II IFNs in a hepatocellular carcinoma cell line, HEP G2. Exposure of these cells to IFN-gamma led to a decrease in TNF receptor number (4029 vs. 2719 sites/cell) without any change in the receptor affinity (0.96 nM vs. 1.1 nM). The effect was time and dose-dependent. Like IFN-gamma, IFN-alpha and IFN-beta (type I) down-modulated the TNF receptors on these cells. The effect of IFNs on the TNF receptors was inhibited by staurosporin, a protein kinase C (PK-C) inhibitor. Furthermore, by the use of receptor-specific antibodies, we found that the IFN-dependent decrease was primarily due to the p60 form of the TNF receptor. Our results presented are the first to demonstrate that IFNs can also down-modulate TNF receptors in certain cells and that this effect is mediated through PK-C.