Tumor necrosis factor: function, release and clearance

Crit Rev Immunol. 1996;16(1):1-11. doi: 10.1615/critrevimmunol.v16.i1.10.


Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF) is a multifunctional cytokine. It plays an important role in the pathophysiology of several diseases. Recently, it has been discovered that TNF is circulating in two different forms, a bioactive form and an immunologically detectable form. These two forms of TNF show different clearance kinetics. The immunological form is supposed to be an inactivated TNF protein. For this inactivation, proteolytic degradation or TNF binding by inactivating proteins is necessary. In this review we have focused on TNF inactivation by TNF binding proteins. Recent data show that there are soluble TNF receptors circulating which can bind and inactivate TNF. These receptors are membrane-bound TNF receptors which have been proteolytically cleaved from the cell membrane. Two TNF receptors are circulating, the soluble TNF receptor of 55 kDa (P55) and the receptor of 75 kDa (P75). The receptors are held responsible not only for inactivation of the TNF, but also for the clearance of TNF. Recent data show that the kidney is the most important organ for TNF clearance, followed by the liver. All other organs are of less importance. In this review, function, release, and clearance of TNF are discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes / metabolism
  • Metabolic Clearance Rate
  • Receptors, Tumor Necrosis Factor / physiology
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / metabolism
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / physiology*


  • Receptors, Tumor Necrosis Factor
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha