A central mechanism of inflammation is the activation of vascular endothelium by the inflammatory cytokines TNF-alpha and IL-1. These cytokines induce the expression of adhesion molecules, the elaboration of chemokines, and the transendothelial migration of white cells. TGF-beta 1 has anti-inflammatory properties, is expressed in the vessel wall, and has previously been shown to inhibit leukocyte adhesiveness to the endothelium at least in part by inhibiting the expression of E-selectin. We now show that TGF-beta 1 also inhibits the migration of neutrophils through endothelial monolayers activated by TNF-alpha. At a dose of 10 U/ml TNF-alpha, the transmigration of neutrophils was inhibited 42.7 +/- 7.9% (n = 8) by 0.2 ng/ml TGF-beta 1. Furthermore, TGF-beta 1 inhibited, in a time- and dose-dependent fashion, the elaboration of IL-8 by TNF-activated endothelial cells by between 33 and 78% (TNF doses from 100 down to 0.1 U/ml) and the elaboration of mRNA for IL-8 by 69%. TGF-beta 1 treatment did not significantly alter the TNF-induced IL-8 mRNA stability, suggesting that the mechanism of action of TGF-beta 1 is on gene transcription. Neutrophil transmigration through cytokine-activated endothelium involves both IL-8-dependent and IL-8-independent mechanisms. Using an anti-IL-8 Ab, we show that TGF-beta 1 inhibits only the IL-8-dependent pathway, but does not affect the IL-8-independent transendothelial migration mechanism. These and our previous results show that TGF-beta1, achieves its anti-inflammatory properties by inhibiting the expression of at least two genes, E-selectin and IL-8, which are essential in the inflammatory pathway.