By differential screening of tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) and lipopolysaccharide (LPS)- activated endothelial cells (ECs), we have identified a cDNA clone that turned out to be a member of the inhibitor of apoptosis (iap) gene family. iap genes function to protect cells from undergoing apoptotic death in response to a variety of stimuli. These iap genes, hiap1, hiap2, and xiap were found to be strongly upregulated upon treatment of ECs with the inflammatory cytokines TNF-alpha, interleukin 1beta, and LPS, reagents that lead to activation of the nuclear transcription factor kappaB (NF-kappaB). Indeed, overexpression of IkappaBalpha, an inhibitor of NF-kappaB, suppresses the induced expression of iap genes and sensitizes ECs to TNF-alpha-induced apoptosis. Ectopic expression of one member of the human iap genes, human X-chromosome-linked iap (xiap), using recombinant adenovirus overrules the IkappaBalpha effect and protects ECs from TNF-alpha- induced apoptosis. We conclude that xiap represents one of the NF-kappaB-regulated genes that counteracts the apoptotic signals caused by TNF-alpha and thereby prevents ECs from undergoing apoptosis during inflammation.