With increasing awareness that seemingly diverse immune-mediated diseases involve similar pathogenetic mechanisms, and the identification of a growing number of key effector molecules, it is becoming possible to design and generate effective transgenic models for such diseases. Tumor necrosis factor (TNF) plays a prominent role in immune and host defense responses and there is strong evidence that abnormal TNF production contributes to disease initiation and progression in rheumatoid arthritis, systemic inflammatory response syndrome, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and many other immune-mediated disorders. The generation of TNF transgenic mice, in which TNF production is deregulated, has provided us with direct evidence that, in vivo, this cytokine can indeed trigger the development of such complex disease phenotypes. Transgenic mice that have been engineered to overexpress human or murine TNF molecules in peripheral joints, T cells, or neurons of the central nervous system represent important animal models for human rheumatoid arthritis, systemic inflammation, and multiple sclerosis, respectively. In addition to establishing a central role for TNF in such diseases, these animal models have already proved valuable for identifying additional important disease-effector molecules, and for gaining an insight into the complex in vivo mechanisms that are involved in disease pathogenesis. For example, in the case of arthritis, TNF has been found to transmit its pathogenic effects entirely through interleukin-1, which may therefore represent an additional important target for therapeutic intervention in the human disease. In summary, TNF transgenic models of human disease are expected to serve as important in vivo tools for defining details of disease pathogenesis, potential targets for therapeutic intervention and for evaluating the possible involvement of additional genetic and environmental factors on the disease state.