TNF-alpha may play a role in mediating insulin resistance associated with obesity. This concept is based on studies of obese rodents and humans, and cell culture models. TNF elicits cellular responses via two receptors called p55 and p75. Our purpose was to test the involvement of TNF in glucose homeostasis using mice lacking one or both TNF receptors. C57BL/6 mice lacking p55 (p55(-)/-), p75, (p75(-)/-), or both receptors (p55(-)/-p75(-)/-) were fed a high-fat diet to induce obesity. Marked fasting hyperinsulinemia was seen for p55(-)/-p75(-)/- males between 12 and 16 wk of feeding the high-fat diet. Insulin levels were four times greater than wild-type mice. In contrast, p55(-)/- and p75(-)/- mice exhibited insulin levels that were similar or reduced, respectively, as compared with wild-type mice. In addition, high-fat diet-fed p75(-)/- mice had the lowest body weights and leptin levels, and improved insulin sensitivity. Obese (db/db) mice, which are not responsive to leptin, were used to study the role of p55 in severe obesity. Male p55(-)/-db/db mice exhibited threefold higher insulin levels and twofold lower glucose levels at 20 wk of age than control db/db expressing p55. All db/db mice remained severely insulin resistant based on fasting plasma glucose and insulin levels, and glucose and insulin tolerance tests. Our data do not support the concept that TNF, acting via its receptors, is a major contributor to obesity-associated insulin resistance. In fact, data suggest that the two TNF receptors work in concert to protect against diabetes.