The activation of endothelial cells is a recurrent phenomenon linked to pathologic conditions such as inflammation, chronic arthritis, allo- and xenograft rejection. To inhibit endothelial cell activation we have constructed a transactivation-deficient derivative of the p65/RelA subunit of NF-kappa B, a transcription factor known to be crucial for the induction of adhesion molecules, cytokines and procoagulants in activated endothelial cells. This protein (p65RHD) comprises the Rel homology domain of the RelA subunit, retaining dimerization, DNA binding, and nuclear localization functions, but is deficient in transcriptional activation, and acts as a competitive inhibitor of NF-kappa B. Our data demonstrate that p65RHD is a potent and specific inhibitor of NF-kappa B-mediated induction of a number of genes, such as I kappa B alpha, IL-8, E-selectin, P-selectin, and tissue factor in endothelial cells. Furthermore, tetracycline-inducible expression of p65RHD in stably transfected primary endothelial cells inhibits the induction of gene expression equally well. This regulated system of gene expression provides the basis for a novel therapeutic approach to the pathologic effects of endothelial cell activation, especially in delayed xenograft rejection, by using transgenic animals as organ donors.